John McCain (R-AZ) swept OH, RI, TX and VT by huge margins to secure his party’s nomination for the presidency, while Hillary Clinton (D-NY) staved Barack Obama (D-IL) off with double-digit margins in OH and VT and a narrow win in the TX primary (as of this writing, the TX caucuses have not been called, but she is behind by four percentage points).
McCain blew past the magic number of 1,191 delegates, and ended the evening with 1,226. Hillary trails Obama in delegates (1,365 to 1,451 by CNN’s reckoning) – as Obama did not hesitate to point out when he conceded OH and RI to Hillary (“No matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning”).
But Hillary was able to blunt his momentum, create doubts in voters’ minds about whether he is tough enough to be Commander-in-Chief, and make the case that Obama hasn’t closed the sale.
Obama claims that he will not answer Hillary’s attacks on his experience and resoluteness with negative attacks of his own on her experience and honesty, but the two are now locked into a duel to the death. One can imagine armies of oppo researchers already hitting the ground in Chicago and Little Rock to ferret out any damaging information they can for the next wave of negative ads and Drudge Report leaks (second item).
This is all great news for McCain, who can concentrate on building support amongst the conservative base while Hillary and Obama spend the next six weeks tearing each other down.
McCain won OH 60 percent vs. 31 percent; RI 65 percent to 22 percent; TX 51 percent to 38 percent; and VT 72 percent to 14 percent. Early exit polling indicated that McCain won the majority of votes amongst Republicans in both OH and TX, as well as conservatives in OH; McCain and Huckabee split the conservative vote in TX, as well as the evangelical and born-again Christian vote in both states. According to Fox News, there are so few Republicans in RI and VT that it’s not worth trying to figure out who voted for one candidate instead of the other and why.
As he repeatedly said he would, Mike Huckabee (R-AR) has dropped out of the race and promised to support McCain’s candidacy and help him unite the party (video link).
On the Dem side, Hillary won OH 54 percent vs. Obama’s 44 percent; TX 51to 48; and RI 58 percent to 40 percent. Obama won VT 60 percent to 38 percent.
Except for ulta-liberal, rabidly anti-war VT - where Obama cut deeply into Hillary’s core strength amongst white women and blue collar workers - voters in the other states reverted to the familiar patterns seen in earlier contests. Obama got eight of 10 black votes in OH and TX, while Hillary got six out of 10 white votes in both states and two-thirds of the Hispanic vote in TX. In OH and TX Obama got the youth vote, Hillary got the senior citizen vote; college graduates went for Obama, those who never got past high school supported Hillary; voters making a six-figure income supported Obama, those earning less than $50K a year supported Hillary – it appears this group brushed off Obama’s attacks on Hillary about her support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The results in RI were in line with those in the other two states.
This time out, however, instead of Obama making inroads into Hillary’s core supporters the reverse happened. In past primaries and caucuses, Obama had won independents and liberals, but in OH and TX Hillary split both groups with Obama. And her tough talk these past few days about Obama not being prepared to be Commander-in-Chief seems to have put some voters off Obama. In OH and TX roughly six out of 10 voters who made their minds up within the past week voted for Clinton.
In her victory speech in OH – which was repeatedly interrupted by the crowd chanting “Yes, she will! Yes, she will! Yes, she will!” - Hillary vowed to take her campaign to PA and beyond (“millions of Americans haven't spoken yet. In states like Pennsylvania and so many others, people are watching this historic campaign, and they want their turn to help make history”). In a Washington Post-ABC News Poll, 67 percent of Dems – and nine out of 10 of her supporters – said that if she won either OH or TX she should stay in the race. She did - and yes, she will.
Dem party Pooh-Bahs who were girding their loins to brave Hillary’s wrath to convince her to abandon her quest for the good of the party will have to stand down for now. And while Hillary is expected to lose the WY caucus on Saturday and the MS primary Tuesday of the coming week, if she can win the PA primary on April 22nd she will be ahead in the popular vote and can credibly challenge Obama’s claim to be the party’s nominee based on his delegate lead.