Persily, Wu Analyze Results of Super Tuesday Primaries
A Panel of Columbia Law School Professors and Students Break Down Tuesday’s PrimaryElection Results
By PAUL WACHTER
February 6, 2008 (NEW YORK) - Super Tuesday, the largest presidential primary contest with polls in 24 states, all but sealed the Republican nomination for Arizona Sen. John McCain, and ensured that the Democratic contest between New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama will continue for weeks, if not months. That was the consensus of Columbia Law School Professors Tim Wu and Nathaniel Persily and students David Gringer ’08 and Steve Nadel ’09, who led a Wednesday lunch discussion on the implications of the previous day’s voting.
“Who could have predicted at the beginning of the campaigns that the Republican nomination, which seemed completely up for grabs, would be sown up after Super Tuesday while the Democratic nomination, which had a clear frontrunner in Hillary Clinton, could be unclear until the convention?” said Persily, an expert in voting rights and election law.
McCain won nine states, including California and New York, and emerged “as the tough guy left standing after a bar room brawl,” Persily said.
Nadel, who volunteered for Mitt Romney’s campaign, said the former Massachusetts governor needed to “win big” in California. Nadel said he wouldn’t be surprised if Romney dropped out of the race in the next few days. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won five states to Romney’s seven, is unlikely to win any more contests outside the evangelical-heavy South, Nadel predicted.
The Democratic race is shaping up to be more interesting, said Wu, an Obama supporter. Neither candidate was clearly victorious on Tuesday, with Obama winning more states but Clinton (like McCain) winning the delegate-rich states of California and New York. “Both candidates’ hopes for a decisive victory were not realized,” Wu said. The next few contests probably will favor Obama, but Clinton should have the advantage on March 4, when the polls open in Texas and Ohio, Wu said.
“On the Democratic side, this election seems to be following demographics rather than ideology,” Persily said. Clinton does well with Hispanics, white women and working-class white male voters, while Obama fares better with African-Americans and affluent white voters. The election may not be decided until the Democratic convention, in which case superdelegates — the party officials and elders who are not bound by the popular vote — could tilt the election to either candidate. (Currently, Clinton has more superdelegate supporters.)
Another potential complication involves Florida and Michigan delegates, whom the Democratic National Committee has refused to recognize because those two states’ rescheduled their primary contests, Persily said. Clinton, who won those states by wide margins — in large part because other Democratic candidates honored their pledge to the national committee not to campaign in those states — is lobbying to have these delegates seated.
Gringer, an Obama volunteer, faulted the media’s coverage of the campaign, particularly its emphasis on endorsements. “Endorsements don’t mean anything,” Gringer said. Despite winning the support of Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, Obama still lost that state, Gringer said. The media would do better to focus on the campaign organizations working in each state as an indicator of electoral success, he said.
The panelists made no predictions about who would win the Democratic primary or the general election. But they said the election is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent memory. “It’s a good time to be alive if you’re interested in politics,” Wu said.