SUPER TUESDAY PRIMARIES: As 24 States Go to Polls, Clinton in Dead Heat with Obama, McCain Leads GOP
The biggest prize in the Super Tuesday 24-state primary vote today will be California, with more than 36 million inhabitants, the most populous state in the nation. Observers expect Clinton and Obama to nearly split the delegates available, which amount to more than 50% of the total. The Republican contest could be close to being decided, if frontrunner McCain achieves a "sweep", as some expect, with more than 40% of delegates in play, and a winner-take-all rule in some GOP contests.
Until two weeks ago, Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY) led her principal Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama (IL) by a margin of more than 10%. By this weekend, that margin had shrunk to 2%, with some polls showing Obama with a lead. By this morning, polls suggested Obama has opened a 13 percentage point lead over Clinton 49% to her 36%, possibly gathering to his cause many voters who had supported the progressive campaign of fmr. Sen. John Edwards (SC). A SurveyUSA poll conducted during the same period shows Sen. Clinton with a 10% lead.
Georgia, where Obama holds a commanding 20 percentage point lead, according to the latest Zogby poll, is expected to be important to the candidate's maintaining momentum through the day and into the coming contests. Bloomberg reports "or the next 90 minutes after polls close in Georgia, returns will come in from 10 states, including primaries in the Northeast. Anything other than victory for New York Senator Clinton in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware would be a coup for Obama, an Illinois senator."
Among Republicans, new frontrunner Sen. John McCain (AZ) has pulled ahead in many key states, and himself predicts he will defeat rival Mitt Romney in his home state of Massachusetts. Pollster John Zogby says "It looks like a big day for McCain with Romney making a last stand in California".
McCain's momentum, based on his victories in South Carolina and Florida, seems to give him the edge in terms of support and energy, though many conservative Republicans are wary of his "credentials" in the area of social and fiscal conservatism. His tough talk on issues of war and security has brought momentum from that part of the Republican electorate concerned about defense issues, though there is general skepticism across the nation on issues of economic recovery and fiscal policy.