Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Take a Deep Breath

It's going to be a nail-biter tonight. I'm really hoping that Obama takes California, I would be so overjoyed. The increasing excitement about him here has been palpable in the past week. There's been the high-profile endorsements of course, Ted and Caroline Kennedy, and Maria Shriver (our state's first lady), and moveon.org was huge. More locally significant, El Piolin, a top Spanish-language radio morning show host was plugging Obama last week, and Obama was endorsed by La Opinion (the largest Spanish-language paper in the LA area, and the second largest paper of any language in the area) as well as the LA Times. But even cooler was the stuff happening on a local level. At the market the other night, there was a young woman who had come from the Obama rally earlier that day, wearing an Obama shirt and just gushing with excitement about the rally, and practically holding a mini-rally in the checkout line, getting everyone at Gelson's pumped up about Obama. And George, who drives all around town as part of his job, says he saw mini-rallies for Obama on street corners all over town.

Of course we won't know anything about California until late into the night, if not tomorrow, thanks to California's big step backwards on electronic voting (more on that in another post). The elimination of electronic voting machines also meant elimination of early voting options that has caused a much larger number of mail-in ballots than usual. That works a bit against Obama, whose momentum has really developed significantly just in the last couple of weeks. Something that works in his favor here is that independents were able to vote in the Democratic primary but not the Republican one. However, a ballot controversy may take away a bit of that. Independents who wanted to vote for the Democratic primary not only needed to punch the hole for their Democratic choice, but there was another hole labeled merely "Democrat" that also needed to be punched, or else the vote wouldn't count. Not sure whose idiotic design that was, but there will certainly be some number of people whose obvious choice gets disqualified because of that, and probably a lawsuit to follow, shades of Florida's butterfly ballots.

A couple of "notes to self" for future campaigns, should I be so motivated again. I did a blanket email of a bunch of friends and aquaintances (about 170 people) telling them how excited I was about Obama, and encouraging them to check out my blog. I got a nice number of positive responses, including several thoughtful ones from some people who were on the fence. I replied to those and hope I might have nudged a few of them over. But I wish I had been more actively on the ball a month earlier, as I had a surprising number of friends who were registered Republicans, but really wished they could have voted for Obama, and would have switched their registration to independent if they had been prompted to do so in time. Shoot. Several missed votes I could have picked up.

It's also important to take a deep breath here, and remember that it's a race for delegates, not states per se. Unlike the Republicans, whose primaries are mostly winner-take-all affairs, the Democratic races are mostly apportioned, often by congressional district. In Nevada, for example, Clinton won the popular vote, but Obama actually got more delegates because he won most of the districts outside of Las Vegas. Nobody is going to get the "magic number" of delegates needed to seal a win tomorrow, and if the delegate total is within 100 after the dust settles on Wednesday, there's still a real horse race. That is good for Obama, who is on the rise. I'm no expert on this, but it's still looking to me like it may well not be decided even after all of the primaries, and may go all the way to the convention in late August. The superdelegates could be decisive. The early read on them is that they were heavily for Clinton, but they're not pledged, and if there's a rising tide, they could well be switched. The race is on!

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