Yes, Virginia, your votes matter this time around. And yes, Virginia, I am making that Yes, Virginia joke again.
Super Duper Tuesday has come and gone and while no one’s collected enough beads to be named the official nominee, some have gotten just enough to make you wonder: just how much fun did they have?
It’s almost there on the Republican side as John McCain came out on top, pulling 504 delegates out of nine states including his home state of Arizona. Mitt Romney, once considered the front runner, came out with 175 delegates out of five states including Massachusetts, where he served as governor, and Utah, a place he used to call home. The big surprise wasn’t the huge swing in McCain’s favor but how well former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee did with little money and a bit of a round-house kick out of Chuck Norris, winning 141 delegates out of four states including Arkansas. Huckabee’s strength was in the south, where Christian voters overwhelmingly supported him over McCain and Romney.
McCain’s delegate victory was largely helped by the lack of Rudy Giulanni, whose third place finish in Florida led to his dropping out and endorsing of McCain. This backing along with that of the Governator solidified his standing in delegate rich winner take all New York and California. All of this came despite efforts by Conservative pundits and talk show hosts pushing for an “Anyone But McCain” strategy that ran into problems when Huckabee and McCain’s supporters took an “Anyone But Romney” approach to things. With McCain enjoying a large lead in delegates the other candidates are having to do a bit of soul searching and a lot of looking forward to the upcoming Louisiana and Washington primaries on Saturday.
On the Democratic side things aren’t so clear cut. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remain virtually tied after Clinton won at least 582 delegates in eight states and Obama won at least 562 delegates in eleven states, depending on who’s counting. While Clinton currently holds a lead among super delegates (delegates who look good wearing capes and get to vote how they feel and not how the plebeians think they should), those votes could change at any time and no one knows this better than Clinton. The closeness of this race doesn’t look to be broken anytime soon and the two will keep duking it out as early as this Saturday as Louisiana, Washington and Nebraska’s hold primaries and Maine follows on Sunday.
One interesting thing to come out of Super Tuesday wasn’t how many delegates Huckabee got or how broke Clinton is while Obama breaks another fundraising recort, but turnout by party. The total number of voters turning out for Demcratic primaries was 14,460,149 compared to just 8,367,694 for Republicans. Were the Democrats more inspired or is this a carryover of one of the worst environment for Republicans since ever? Certainly something the parties will be keeping an eye on as November creeps ever so closer.
So what does this all mean to Virginia? It means this Tuesday’s going to be more than just Free Pancake Day at IHOP. Tuesday, February 12th marks the Potomac Primaries: Maryland, Washington DC and, yes, Virginia.
With McCain failing to lock the nomination up on Super Tuesday and Clinton and Obama still neck and neck, Virginia can expect to finally get her fair share of the limelight (take that, New Hampshire!). Rasmussen numbers from early January give McCain and Clinton slight leads in Virginia, but with so many delegates up for grabs, everyone’s going to want to get a piece of the Old Dominion.
Will McCain’s “Straight Talk” resonate with Virginia voters? Will Romney’s wonderfully quaffed hair and Reagan-esque looks go over well with NOVA (Northern Virginia) more than ROVA (Rest Of Virginia – yes, these are now official designations)? Will Huckabee’s “aw shucks” Christian charm give him yet another southern state under his belt and spoil the party for the top two? Or will Ron Paul make one hell of a stand and show Virginia wants to give Minnesota a run for its money in liking their politics a bit on the crazy side?
While none of the Republicans have officially scheduled Virginia visits, robo-calls have already started and all three are to address CPAC in Washington D.C. Thursday, February 7th, though there is a rumored debate in Richmond possibly on the horizon. For Virginia Republicans, your vote will count just as if you were voting for President, with the winner taking all 63 of Virginia’s delegates.
Hillary Clinton already has plans to campaign in northern Virginia Thursday and both Clinton and Obama will be in Richmond on Saturday for the Democratic Party of Virginia’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner ($50 a ticket if you can find one). Obama, backed by Governor Tim Kaine, hasn’t announced any other dates but you can bet he will in short order. For Virginia Democrats, every vote could shift the scale as delegates will be assigned on a proportional basis that takes into account congressional districts for 29 delegates, total statewide numbers, unpledged super delegates, and which way the wind is blowing. The more votes a candidate gets, the more of the 83 delegates they get, so everyone’s a winner in Virginia!
Don’t expect the love to last long, though. Candidates are fickle romantics and come Wednesday morning you can expect yourself to wake up alone and wondering what just happened as everyone moves on to the epic Wisconsin primary on the 19th. And move on they shall, because while we matter this time, Virginia’s not about to make-or-break any of these campaigns. McCain will either edge closer or Romney or Huckabee will continue to imagine they have a shot, though all signs point to the former. Expect Clinton to carry NOVA while Obama works his magic in ROVA and a split vote leads to split delegates and a continued tie.
So dust off your ol’ walkin’ shoes and get your finger ready to press that button because all eyes will be on Virginia Tuesday and we wanna look good for our close-up.
IHOPs are open varying hours and offering free short stacks while supplies last. Find one near you here.