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Assessing Super Tuesday

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Tuesday afternoon, driving around Berkeley and Oakland and seeing the number of "Obama for President" signs, it was easy to believe the predictions that he was going to win the California Democratic primary. Nonetheless, sixty minutes after the polls closed, the TV networks declared Senator Clinton the winner. Despite this setback, the Obama campaign continues to gain momentum.

1. Senator Obama came out of Super Tuesday in a virtual tie with Senator Clinton in terms of votes and delegates; it's clear he has a real shot at winning the Democratic Presidential nomination. A year ago, few of us would have predicted this would happen. He's run a surprisingly strong campaign; many would say a better operation than that of the vaunted Clinton machine.

2. He has proved his candidacy has broad appeal. On Super Tuesday, Senator Obama won more "pledged delegates" and more states than Senator Clinton. And, he won in "red" states, places like Alabama and Kansas.

3. By winning the majority of male voters in most primaries, regardless of race, Senator Obama dispelled the myth that he is a strictly a black candidate - he won 46 percent of the white votes in California and 52 percent of the white men. At this writing New Mexico is a virtual dead heat, as 1100 votes separate Clinton and Obama; he carried 55 percent of all White voters.

4. Senator Obama has overcome the huge advantages of the Clinton campaign: high name recognition and having prepared for three years. Senator Clinton's California campaign had been well organized for more than a year. While Senator Obama had fundraisers here since February of 2007, he did not have a campaign infrastructure in place until January; therefore it's not surprising he lost. After his wins in Iowa and South Carolina, there was a rising wave of enthusiasm for the Illinois Senator but it came too late to translate into the substantial infrastructure needed to carry California.

5. While Senator Obama did have a gender and race problem in California - he carried only 34 percent of women overall, 29 percent of Latino voters and 23 percent of Asians - this was not the case in New Mexico. He did significantly better among Latinos in New Mexico than he did in California, which suggests that when Hispanic voters get to know him, they will support him.

6. Senator Obama has proved to be a terrific fundraiser. In January he raised more than $31 million while Senator Clinton collected only $13 million and was forced to lend her campaign $5 million. There's little doubt that Senator Obama will have the funds to continue the contest for as long as necessary. Indeed, there are many who suggest the Clinton strategy was to secure the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday and, since she didn't, she is now at a financial disadvantage because Senator Obama has a larger number of donors.

7. The Democratic presidential race has been reduced to two contenders. As we go forward, Senator Obama's name recognition will improve. This will help him garner more support, as increased public familiarity will dispel the notion he is less experienced than Senator Clinton.

8. Ultimately, the Democratic candidate will face Senator John McCain. National polls indicate Senator Obama runs ahead of McCain, while Senator Clinton does not. Political observers posit that in a campaign pitting Obama versus McCain, the relative youthfulness of the Illinois Senator is a big factor, as he wins young voters by decisive majorities regardless of race or gender. Furthermore, Obama runs stronger in the south and mid west than does Senator Clinton. (This can be seen in Tuesday's results from Georgia where the total votes cast for Obama exceeded the combined totals of the two leading Republican candidates: Huckabee and McCain.)

9. Senator Clinton has high unfavorability ratings. Political observers argue the reason Senator Obama runs better against McCain than does Senator Clinton is due to her strong negatives, particularly the antipathy felt by Republican voters. It is widely believed that if the November contest were to pit McCain versus Clinton many Republicans would show up at the polls in order to vote against Senator Clinton - her presence on the ticket would improve the chances of the Republican candidate.

10. Many political insiders believe Senator Obama nomination would be better for the Party as a whole; they argue he will "have coat tails" - help the entire ticket - whereas Senator Clinton will not. They note she will run well in blue states such as California and New York, but point out that Senator Obama will run equally well in those areas and much better in red states such as Georgia and Kansas, and purple states such as Colorado and Minnesota. And, in the final analysis November is not just about Democrats winning the presidency, it's also about increasing Democratic majorities in Congress.

The bottom line is that Barack Obama will remain in the race for the Democratic Presidential until the August convention, where he could prevail if delegates recognize he is a better fit for the entire ticket.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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