Still the same cast of characters

For the first time since, well, probably the beginning of this process last summer, we’ve had a major polling event where no candidate for President dropped out afterward and all pledged to fight on. While the media piled on Mitt Romney and called his path to the nomination “closed”, you just never know what might happen as events go on. After all, who expected Mike Huckabee to win five states last night?

What I find quite interesting is the pattern of states that’s shaping up on both sides.

For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton has only 13 states in her column, with two of those (Florida and Michigan) not allowed to seat delegates. But her other eleven are among the biggest prizes, with her biggest strength seemingly in states with large Latino populations (California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico). Also she did well in the mid-South (Oklahoma and Tennessee, plus the given of Arkansas.) The Northeast also went for her, but you probably figure New York and New Jersey as givens because of her Senate seat and the extent that New York media reaches New Jersey. Maybe the biggest gift for her thus far is Massachusetts, where she beat Ted Kennedy.

Barack Obama has a lot of territory on the map with sixteen states, but many of them are red states. A large swath of real estate from Illinois on the east to Idaho on the west provides most of his victories (besides those two, he has Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah in his column.) Obviously he did well in the Deep South too, winning Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. The two pleasant surprises for him were Connecticut and Delaware. Oh, and he won Alaska.

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But the way Democrats proportion their delegates means that the key battlegrounds left will likely be the Rust Belt states of Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, plus our mid-Atlantic area. I’d suspect Hillary would carry Texas and what remains of the Northeast, while Obama takes the remaining Deep South states along with the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

The GOP, on the other hand, varies its proportions in each state, so some of the states John McCain won last night really loaded his delegate count because the winner took all of the delegates. Missouri was one example of a close race where McCain squeaked through but took everyone going to the convention with less than 40% of the vote. And there’s no region where McCain hasn’t won, with four Northeast states (New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey); the mid-Atlantic (Delaware); the South (South Carolina and Florida); Midwest (Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma); and far West (California and his home state of Arizona.) One argument against John is that he’s won a number of “blue” states so far and that’s correct – 6 of his eleven wins came in states John Kerry carried in 2004. Perhaps he’d flip them to the GOP but it’s doubtful and may come at the expense of losing previously “red” states.

Also with eleven states won is Mitt Romney, but he’s won a lot of small states. While he’s a governor from the Northeast, he’s only won 2 of 6 contests there (Massachusetts which was a given and Maine.) Most of his delegates come from out West, particularly in the Rocky Mountain region (Idaho, Wyoming, of course Utah, Nevada, Colorado, plus Alaska.) He’s also picked up his native Michigan, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

Mike Huckabee is very strong in the deep South, but not much else. Losing Missouri had to be a disappointment and it took a backroom deal for him to win West Virginia. Iowa looks more and more like a fluke, but that and West Virginia were two states that could have easily gone to the Romney column.

The race, though, is McCain’s to lose. There’s not much left out West for Mitt Romney to pick up nor is there a whole lot left in the South where Huckabee’s strongest. Romney could win in the Midwest and cut into the McCain margin but all John has to do is pick off a few delegates in most of the states where delegates are proportioned out somehow (like Maryland) and he might have enough to scrape by come September.

Using Maryland as an example, if McCain wins two delegates of the three elected in each of the Democrat-controlled Congressional districts and wins the popular vote based on those heavily-populated areas, he would pick up 22 of the 34 delegates available. He may only get 40% of the vote, but it would still be a good pickup for him because 10 delegates go to the popular vote winner. Even if Mitt Romney wins the popular vote somehow under the same scenario, McCain still adds 12 toward his needed total.

Luckily, we here in the First District have a Congressional election that is bitterly contested to increase turnout for conservatives, but other areas in Maryland don’t enjoy that same luxury. Both locally and nationally, it’s the ace in the hole for McCain as two aspirants who at least nominally lean more to the right split that vote while John McCain grabs all the moderates and sneaks off with the nomination. Substitute a certain Congressman’s name for John McCain and you get my biggest November fear come Tuesday.

Crossposted on monoblogue. By the way, thanks for the plug “Gull92.” And what’s funny is that Brian Griffiths can’t cancel out my Harris vote since he lives in District 2.

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