I’ll let you in on a secret. I am a political animal. I have been since the 1992 presidential election when I was 16 years old. I watched the conventions with great anticipation and was quite a good volunteer for one of the three major candidates in 1992. Arguments with classmates were the norm.
After 1992, I kept going. I volunteered for some smaller local races in 1993. Held my breath as my preferred congressional candidate won his House seat by less than 1% in 1994. I interned for my representative in 1995 and 1996. I spoke with a U.S. Senate candidate on the phone in 1998 when calling to volunteer.
That was probably a bad sign that the candidate was answering phone calls to his campaign headquarters. In 1999, I went to New Hampshire to volunteer for another Presidential candidate. Well I am sure you get the picture and I have not even touched the new millennium.
The thing is this particular presidential race is killing me. Iowa grabbed my interest to be sure. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina all pointed toward an interesting Super Tuesday on both sides of the aisle. The Republican race settled on Super Tuesday even if Mike Huckabee had a few nice wins before finally bowing out in early March.
Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton each had strong results on Super Tuesday. Obama then had a wonderful February where he put Hillary into a bind. Hillary bounced back by winning Ohio, Rhode Island and the popular vote in Texas to start some March Madness of her own. Obama countered with wins in Vermont, Wyoming, Mississippi, and in the Texas delegate count. Obama also picked up a few extra delegates in Iowa making March into more or less a draw.
Then came April: Hillary needed a big win in Pennsylvania to keep going. Obama said a loss by fewer than 10 points was a win for him due to her big lead and big endorsements in PA. The result was roughly a 10 point win for Hillary. Did that equal a big win? If you ask the Clintons, “Yes!”
Did that equal a moral victory for Obama as he kept things much closer than the 20-30 points he trailed 6 weeks prior to the primary? If you ask the Obama camp, “Yes!” Why could the win not have been by 6 points clearly giving Obama an edge? Why could the win have been 16 points clearly giving Hillary an edge? Instead the margin hit in just a spot where both sides could claim they got what they wanted out of Pennsylvania. Some might find that to be exciting. I do not.
Odds are Obama will win North Carolina, the largest remaining state, by enough points to make up any real ground Hillary gained in the delegate count and popular vote. Indiana is the second largest state remaining and neither candidate looks to win by more than 3 or 4 points there.
If Obama wins both Indiana and North Carolina the race will likely be declared to be over, but Hillary may not drop out because she could still win West Virginia and maybe my home state of Kentucky even if she drops out. That would be embarrassing for Obama.
If Hillary loses Indiana she may actually have to stay in the race until after West Virginia and Kentucky for the good of the party. Beyond that one figures Obama’s geographic strengths and cash advantage leave him in a good spot for Oregon, Montana and South Dakota. That leaves the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with no electoral votes in November perhaps deciding the popular vote in the Democratic primary.
All of these twists and turns should excite a political animal, but to this point they have killed my interest. The race is roughly in the same spot as it was at the end of February except that fewer contests remain. Obama leads in delegates, cash, votes and states won. Hillary has flexed support in traditional Democratic circles and larger states but has had a hard time generating Obama’s level of revenue.
Anyone hoping to see a clean knockout is unlikely to see one unless Obama wins North Carolina and Indiana by big enough margins as to make up huge ground in West Virginia. This could happen, but as it stands each candidate seems to keep doing just enough to push the race into stasis.
Obama won the delegate count in Texas and was certainly happy to do that, but had he won the popular vote in Texas this nominating process would be over. Hillary needed big state wins to undermine faith in Obama and has won several big states, but not by big enough margins to have thoroughly embarrassed Obama and forced a standing 8 count.
Instead since March 4, this race has looked like two giant tortoises slowly walking toward a finish line. Sure one of the tortoises is unlikely to lose his lead, but that does not mean the race is over. It also does not mean the race has much drama left.
The Obama sprint in February will probably be the difference in this process, but instead of that being a massive kick to come down the stretch and seize the nomination it was a move to the front in the middle leg of the race that will likely be as decisive as it was understated. Hillary has run well since getting trounced in February, but she is quickly running out of race track.
So the tortoise race trudges on and it may even be interesting as the tortoises are now hissing at each other. However, there is a reason horse racing is more exciting than the reptilian alternative – speed.
This race has been going at a full tortoise throttle since prior to Thanksgiving 2007. I cannot wait for the stretch run even if it continues at this crawling pace because the end will at least be in sight.