This past week, esteemed Washington Post columnist David S. Broder predicted that post–Super Tuesday’s comparatively drawn-out primary schedule would benefit Barack Obama. Meanwhile, a usually perceptive Boston Globe op-ed contributor, David Sparks, wrote that the “fat lady won’t sing” for Mitt Romney for a while — joining others, such as radio host Hugh Hewitt, who predicted there was still time for a Romney comeback.
In reality, though, Obama now faces a road that may well get rougher. And the fat lady is singing so loudly for Romney that she’s get-ting hoarse.
It’s true that the pace of the post–Super Tuesday calendar does indeed favor Obama. He won’t have to campaign in 20 primary states at once again, and we’ve learned that the longer voters have to get to know him, the more they like him.
It’s also true that, at least for the next week, the schedule looks good for Obama’s campaign. He faces the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska, Washington, and Maine this weekend, and then primaries in DC, Virginia, and Maryland on Tuesday. The four states holding primaries the week following Super Tuesday have sizable black populations. The other three are caucus states, where Obama tends to do better than he does in primaries because his voters are more committed and thus likelier to participate than Clinton’s. Obama could well sweep these contests, giving him momentum and a push for delegate parity with the frontrunner.
The problem for him is that, after next Tuesday, the calendar switches back to favoring Clinton. Over the next month, the Democratic candidates confront a primary in Wisconsin and caucuses in Hawaii (both February 19), before winding up this phase of the campaign with March 4 primaries in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Most of these states (at least the large ones) have demographics that tend to favor Clinton — a lower percentage of black voters, more working-class voters, and, in the case of Texas, more Hispanic voters. More important, Clinton still retains a narrow lead in delegates. In a propor-tional-representation scheme such as the Democrats use, it’s difficult to rally from behind, since nearly every contest splits the delegates close to 50-50. It now looks like the 800 or so superdelegates — members of the party establishment — could get to decide the party’s nominee. That favors Clinton — unless Obama can win most of the remaining contests.
On the GOP side, it’s true that there are significant factions of the party who dislike McCain — particularly the anti-immigration crowd, the hardcore conservatives, and the party’s loudmouths (e.g., Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, and Ingraham).
But, as the saying goes, you can’t beat somebody with nobody. The problem for conservatives isn’t that their vote has been divided (though some of it has been split between Romney and Mike Huckabee). It’s that Romney is too unpopular to be the standard bearer of anything.