Building on last week's "Potomac Primary," Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) kept their winning streaks going.
In WI, Obama and McCain won by comfortable margins over Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Mike Huckabee (R-AR), respectively (58 percent to 41 percent in the Dem primary; 55 percent to 37 percent in the GOP primary). Though Huckabee had challenged the results of the state's photo-finish Republican caucuses earlier this month, this time he lost to McCain 22 percent to 49 percent. And in HI – where he spent part of his childhood – Obama trounced Hillary 3:1 (76 percent to 24 percent).
According to FOX News exit polls, 70 percent of voters in the GOP primary in WI said they are Republican, and a majority of them supported McCain - 53 percent 39 percent for Huckabee. However, Huckabee continues to win the votes of those who self-identify as "very conservative" (50 percent to 40 percent for McCain), and tied McCain amongst those who call themselves "conservative" (45 percent each). As he has in the past, McCain handily won moderates - getting two out of three of their votes - while Huckabee again won evangelicals.
CNN exit polls in WI found that 76 percent of voters in the Republican primary would be satisfied if McCain is the party's nominee, and just under half (48 percent) said McCain's positions were "about right, suggesting that the base is starting to warm up to him.
On the Dem side, the WI results suggest that the groups Hillary won in past contests are starting to cool toward her. While Hillary is still popular with seniors - winning that group 60 percent to Obama's 39 percent – the two split the women's vote (with 51 percent going to Hillary, 48 percent to Obama). But Obama won those earning less than $50,000 54 percent to 44 percent and those without a college degree (54 percent to 45 percent). Notes The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, "Obama is building the coalition that Clinton appeared to have built in earlier votes. And without winning back a significant portion of that coalition, it becomes VERY difficult for her to come from behind and claim the nomination."
McCain did much better against Huckabee in the WA primary than in the caucuses, because this time, the conservative vote was diluted by moderate voters. Still, the die hards continue to snub McCain – Mitt Romney got the protest vote this time (20 percent), which undercuts Huckabee's claim that he is the conservative alternative to McCain.
As Oscar Wilde observed, "The basis of optimism is sheer terror." In Hillary's case she is too terrified to acknowledge her opponent's victory graciously - perhaps even too terrified to acknowledge reality - and has taken to giving pretend victory speeches. The Boston Globe reports that "[w]hen it became apparent that Clinton was not going to make the customary acknowledgment of Obama's victory in her speech, Obama began his own address before she finished, in effect grabbing the national television spotlight from her and cutting her off midstride" - and he went on to give a 45-minute stem-winder. For his part, McCain has already written Hillary off and after a quick nod in Huckabee's direction he used his victory speech to draw clear distinctions between Obama and himself.
If Hillary still has the audacity to hope, she can take some comfort in having a virtual lock on WI voters who wanted a candidate with experience (95 percent) – suggesting that Obama is vulnerable to McCain's argument that his candidacy is "an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than people." It is conceivable that some of those who voted for Hillary in the primaries and caucuses because they perceived her to be the more experienced candidate, will switch over to McCain in the general election.