Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Wu'Tierney Factor II

Due to the unfortunate absence of Professor Tierney (who is getting out the vote in Paris), the title was changed to the slightly less catchy “Wu’Persily Factor.” A panel consisting of Professors Wu and Persily, as well as students David Gringer (3L) and Steve Nadel (2L) dissected Super Tuesday and offered their opinions on the race.

Professor Wu started by noting that, “if you’re into politics, this is just a great time to be alive.” He found Super Tuesday very interesting and claimed that he didn’t understand what was going on with American politics this year. Why, for example, did Obama carry Alaska but not San Francisco? He thinks there are factors here people are missing, and he doesn’t know exactly what they are.

Professor Wu compared the upcoming dynamic to a cartoon grudge match, where each candidate gets one really good shot at the other. First, February seems to favor Obama, and he has a month to exploit that. Then, March, with Texas and Ohio, seems to shift the other way and give Clinton an advantage. The question is whether she can survive February in order to take the race back in March, and, if she does, whether she can win decisively then.

With regards to the delegate totals, Wu predicted that Clinton will have a total lead of about 100 after everything is tallied. Obama will be seeking to even up the score in February and try to gain an edge. If neither can knock the other out during their strongest month, then the election moves into uncharted territory, and perhaps all the way to the convention.

Professor Persily began by offering some generalizations that he said were “about 80% true.” He noted that, for the most part, Clinton is getting the larger share of the Latino vote (by about 2:1), less educated whites, older voters, and women. On the other hand, Obama is winning among African American, higher educated whites, and whites in red states. Professor Persily admitted that this oversimplified things. For example Obama did well in the southern states, but also managed to carry Connecticut and Delaware. Obama also seems to have a natural advantage in caucuses.

Persily personally thought Clinton did much better than expected on Tuesday, especially in California. To win that by such a significant margin bodes well for her.

Additionally, he’s very concerned about the way this race is going because he’s worried that this is going to end up depending on the most undemocratic aspects of the primary process. In a race this close, three things come into play that candidates can’t control. (1) Delegate apportionment. (2) Superdelegates. (3) The Florida/Michigan votes, which might be reinstated despite not really having contested elections.

On the Republican side, Persily thinks McCain wrapped it up last night.

Steve Nadel, who worked on the Romney campaign, had some insights into the Republican contest. First, he discussed Romney’s campaign strategy, which was to win the big states early and knock out McCain and Giuliani. It appeared over the summer that everyone who saw Romney liked him, so they aimed to increase his exposure. When other candidates starting coming to the fore, Romney basically fell off the map. Nadel thinks this speaks poorly of him as a candidate.

Nadel thinks the Republican primary is over, and that everyone except the CNN commentators realize this. He does not think Huckabee can win, but thinks the governor might still be relevant.

As for the Democrats, Nadel is “amazed at how long it’s going to take”. He expected like Clinton would walk away with the nomination early, like everyone else. Obama has really shown impressive staying power and ability to enlarge his natural constituency. He’d still give it to Clinton, though, because Obama now has to win big in places not suited to him.

David Gringer began by talking about the media. They are having a huge effect on this race, and he wanted to highlight just how badly they’ve done. He also pointed out that endorsements don’t seem to actually mean anything to voters, only to the media.

In Gringer’s view, perhaps the most important aspect of the campaign is organization. The strength of the candidate’s ground team in each state seems to have a huge effect on the outcome. Obama’s team in Iowa and Clinton’s in New Hampshire were particularly effective, and he is wondering where they will be sent next.

Attempting to explain the strange voting results noted by Professor Wu, Gringer hypothesized that there are two different kind of Democratic voters at issue here. What he calls the “machine” wing of the Democratic party dominates in places like New York and California, places where Democrats dominate and have established power structures. These states seem to favor Clinton. By contrast, states like Idaho and Kansas don’t have “machine” structures, and there have been recent grassroots organizing efforts to rebuild the Democratic Party in these states. These non-machine states favor Obama.

Gringer uses this model to suggest that we might see surprising results. For example, Louisana, thought to be an Obama stronghold, has a strong machine structure. On the other hand, Texas, which is thought to be likely Clinton territory, has more of a grassroots organization structure. He is excited to see how the next few months turn out.

A very interesting presentation from a great panel. Thanks to all who participated and attended. For those who missed out, it looks like we will soon need the Wu’Tierney Factor III.

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