|THE WALL STREET JOURNAL|
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Tuesday Night Lights
February 6, 2008; Page A18
So much for the best laid plans of Terry McAuliffe. The former Democratic Party chairman helped to design the first national Presidential primary in the expectation that its sheer expanse would sink any challenger to Hillary Clinton. Instead, the most important result from Super Tuesday is that Barack Obama showed how broad his appeal to Democratic voters really is.
Mrs. Clinton more than held her own in the Northeast, including a victory in Massachusetts, where Mr. Obama had the much publicized support of Senator Ted Kennedy and Governor Deval Patrick. She also showed her now-familiar strength among women and especially among Hispanic voters. This reflects a fault line between black and Hispanic Democrats that the Clinton campaign has worked hard to exploit.
But Mr. Obama was able to win in Connecticut and Delaware, and did well enough in New Jersey and other states to grab a competitive chunk of delegates. His appeal was also geographically diverse, stretching to Georgia, with its large African-American vote, but also to Minnesota in the Midwest and Colorado in the West.
According to the exit polls, Mr. Obama also improved his vote among whites in several states, especially white men. This means Mr. Obama won many of the nonaffluent voters who had supported John Edwards in earlier states. Unlike previous and losing Democratic upstarts like Gary Hart and Bill Bradley, Mr. Obama's appeal to white voters extends to more than upscale liberals.
Thanks to the Democratic Party's proportional system for allocating delegates, both candidates will now have to fight on for weeks, and maybe longer. Some Democrats will fret about a long and nasty fight that leaves the party divided. But our sense is that the battle is healthy for a party that is clearly torn between going back to the polarizing future with Team Clinton, or going for the less experienced young liberal. Mrs. Clinton is the better known commodity, so Mr. Obama in particular can impress Democrats with his mettle in a longer contest.
As for Republicans, John McCain had the best night, winning across the Northern tier of winner-take-all GOP primary states but also in Missouri and Oklahoma. He continued his appeal to moderate Republicans and voters who care most about national security. More dangerously if he is the nominee, the Arizona Senator didn't run as strongly as many previous GOP front-runners have at this stage of the race. He'll need to overcome the buyer's remorse evident among conservative voters in particular.
Mr. McCain's problems showed most notably in the South, where Mike Huckabee swept through Georgia and other states where evangelical Christians dominate GOP precincts. The former Arkansas Governor was able to displace Mitt Romney as the main alternative to Mr. McCain in those states. But his weakness continues to be that he has done poorly outside of the South, especially in swing states that a Republican must win in November.
Mr. Romney could also point to some caucus and primary wins, but Mr. Huckabee's Southern resurgence means the former Massachusetts Governor has failed to emerge as the conservative favorite. As we went to press, California was still too close to call, and a win there for Mr. McCain would leave him in very good position for the GOP nod.