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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday: Your Guide to the Maddness

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2008 at 2:16 AM

by Benjamin Wachs

Rumor has it that the Clintonites and the Obamamaniacs are both going to campaign heavily at Castro and Market Tuesday morning - this could be bigger than Halloween.

Today 3,156 delegates are at stake nationwide – but screw that. The thing to remember on Primary Day is that all politics is local, and all local politics are screwed up.

Here’s our guide to what’s going down:

National polls tell us squat

If you want to go over a bunch of polling data, knock yourself out. But the bottom line is that Clinton and Obama (the only race you care about) are in a dead heat nationwide.

Does that matter? No. Because delegates are awarded on the basis of who wins congressional districts – and nobody has the money to poll every congressional district in America. Nobody knows what’s going to happen today. Even if the country votes one way, a bunch of big congressional districts in key states could go the other and make everyone cry.

The voters have been delightfully unpredictable so far.

No blowouts – just small wins.

State polls are almost as irrelevant as national polls. It doesn’t matter who wins the state: haven’t you learned by now that the popular vote doesn’t count?

What matters are delegates: however much someone wins a state by, most of the state’s delegates will be split almost identically. Democratic rules divide delegates evenly among those candidates who do well … except when a congressional district has an odd number of delegates. Then somebody wins one extra delegate … and those are the prizes everybody’s courting. The New York Times explains it pretty well here:

So, the sad truth is that if you’re a democrat living in a district with an even number of delegates, your vote will count – but after a low threshold it won’t matter.

Yeah – turns out democracy sucks after all.

Can blacks put Obama over the top?

Illinois political strategist Bob Creamer used to say “Blacks are the smartest voters in America. 90% of the time they vote Democratic. If only we could get them to vote more often.”

As we head into Tuesday so super it might get its own comic book, the Boston Globe is predicting that if Obama can carry black congressional districts by a sizeable margin, he’ll pull ahead. Why? Because then Clinton won't meet the minimum threshold to divide the votes evenly with him.

A lot of people are saying that means Obama’s going to clean Hillary’s clock, because didn’t blacks in South Carolina vote for him by huge margins? Sure – but not all blacks live in South Carolina, do they? Remember how women were all supposed to swarm for Hillary? Uh huh.

What will a victory look like?

Okay, bearing all that stuff I just said mind, some states still are more important than others … must wins for each candidate include California, Massachusetts, New York, Missouri, Arizona and New Mexico. If anybody wins all of those by wide margins, it’s over: no matter what the delegates say, the people have spoken.

If they’re splint evenly, this context will go on to the bitter end and a potentially divided convention. Sweet.

How do those states look? Tight. Very, very, tight. The Canadian Press, of all places, has a complete breakdown of every state – in simple to understand language and minimal numbers, here.

Knock yourself out. It’s gonna be bigger than the Super Bowl … and yeah, that was a hell of a Super Bowl.

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Benjamin Wachs


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