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|Palmetto State helps sort out GOP field|
Unless you have been under house arrest with no access to any form of media, the Internet and have had your phone disconnected for not paying your bill again, the facts surrounding Super Tuesday are well-known.
But just in case…
February 5th is Super Tuesday. It is called 'super' because more than 46 percent of the delegates required to get the Republican nomination for President will be up for grabs. Having so many delegates pledged so early was supposed to clear the field, bring the party together and prepare the GOP for what will be a very tough campaign against the Democratic candidate.
Not so fast.
The topsy-turvy results thus far have allowed Huckabee, McCain and Romney (please take notice of the fact that I was unable to include Giuliani in that listing) to all claim victories: both real ones and moral ones. But, the GOP nomination is hardly within reach for any major candidate. Further, voters in states as diverse as Alabama, California, Delaware, Illinois and New York could add another wrinkle to the Republican Presidential nomination process.
Thompson should have done much better in South Carolina. Sure he did as well as Romney, but he picked up no delegates from a southern state. He really needed to either win or come in a close second to remain viable. Instead, he is out.
So what has gone wrong for Giuliani?
According to his strategy, Florida was supposed to be the catalyst for Rudy Giuliani who has yet to scratch out any meaningful caucus or primary effect. In fact, the conventional wisdom has claimed that Giuliani has been deliberately taking dives on the early Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina rounds in hopes that a power punch in the Sunshine State would propel him to the nomination. There are at least two things that seem obviously flawed about this line of attack now.
McCain's resurgence and Huckabee's resilience have ripped asunder the notion of a Giuliani win in Florida could translate into victory on Super Tuesday.
Next, when the Republican National Committee voted to deprive Florida of half its delegates because on its January 29 primary date, this only further exacerbated Giuliani's already blemished preparations.
This is why I think that South Carolina has helped more than any contest so far to clear the GOP field.
When you consider the exit polls, McCain and Huckabee were the top two finishers in every demographic, issue question and in the all important 'agent for change' category. McCain did well with older voters (which accounts for more than 65 percent of Republicans in South Carolina) and pro-choice voters, while Huckabee scored with the younger generation and those looking to deport illegal immigrants. Also worth noting is that McCain typically does well among veterans and this could really hurt Giuliani chances in Florida.
In one of the stranger responses, McCain polled well among those 'enthusiastic' supporters of Bush AND those claiming to be 'dissatisfied or angry' with the President.
(Note to reader: I am still scratching my head over that one. I guess you can speak out of both sides of your mouth and get votes.)
Romney on the other hand has notched minor victories in Michigan and Nevada and some strong second place finishes. He certainly can maintain his bid. He is the clear front-runner in terms of delegates and perhaps now with Thompson out the conservative choice.
Ron Paul has a core group that seems unwilling to quit. And why should he? He has beat Giuliani in several contests and has many more delegates than the former New York City Mayor. Could Florida redeem Giuliani? Maybe, but is still has been a risky strategy.
So what is next?
I am still unsure if Huckabee has the financial ability to go the distance. He looks more and more like a solid second choice, a Vice-Presidential nominee. Giuliani must do well in Florida if he hopes to bounce back. And, Romney's uninspiring finish in South Carolina could foreshadow comparable results throughout the south. He picked up some solid symbolic support in Louisiana with Congressmen McCrery and Alexander. This still leaves McCain standing pretty tall. For now, anyway.
On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats travel to the Palmetto State on Saturday January 26.
Will Obama land another upset win over once-again front running Hillary? If he does, will she have enough tears left for Super Tuesday? Can Edwards survive another third-place finish? If Hillary does poorly in South Carolina does that point to a potential pitfall throughout the south on Super Tuesday?
Maybe South Carolina will sort out the Democrats the way it has with the GOP. Perhaps justifying an Edwards exit. Then, Obama and Clinton (sorry Dennis) can go head to head.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.