COMING THURSDAY -- Special Edition: After the dust settles from "Super Tuesday," where do GOP, Dems go from there?
By Skeeter Sanders
As millions of Americans prepare to go to the polls Tuesday in the closest thing to a national primary that this country has ever seen, signs are mounting that the two major parties are going in diametrically opposite directions in terms of campaign conduct.
On the Democratic side, the two remaining candidates for the party's presidential nomination have taken the first tentative steps toward what many Democrats hope will result in a history-making "dream ticket" in the November 4 election, with Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois emerging from the party's August convention in Denver as running mates.
Both candidates refused to explicitly rule out that possibility. But as they campaigned over the weekend, neither Clinton nor Obama sounded like future running mates, as they continued to highlight their differences. Nevertheless, they noticeably refrained from making the kind of slashing attacks that generated much controversy in Nevada and South Carolina.
In sharp contrast on the Republican side, rancor and bitterness has risen sharply as the GOP's top two candidates exchanged increasingly nasty charges and counter-charges at one another. But the rivalry between Senator John McCain of Arizona and former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is only the tip of the iceberg.
It's rapidly become symbolic of a full-scale ideological power struggle for the future direction of the Party of Lincoln to a degree not seen in more than 40 years -- and which could boil over at the GOP's September convention in Minneapolis.
For the first time since it was conceived in 1984 and put into practice in 1988, "Super Tuesday" -- whose name is more apt than ever this year because it falls just two days after the Super Bowl -- will have the look and feel of a truly national primary, with 24 of the 50 states, from coast to coast and from border to border, in play. In a sense, it will be "November in February," a preview of next fall's general election.
Also for the first time in its history, "Super Tuesday" could fail to settle which candidates will be the undisputed front-runners in either party -- which could bode ill particularly for the Republicans.
Clinton and Obama Make Nice For Now, But Can They Stay That Way?
In their final televised debate before Super Tuesday, Clinton and Obama sparred one-on-one -- for the most part cordially -- over immigration, health care and the war in Iraq Thursday night, clearly recognizing the stakes for both of them after voters in South Carolina's January 26 Democratic primary sent a loud-and-clear message to Clinton that they didn't appreciate her husband's sometimes-ugly, racially-charged attacks on Obama.
Former President Bill Clinton, who, among other things, dismissed Obama's South Carolina victory as comparable to Jesse Jackson's in 1984 and 1988, came under intensely sharp and widespread criticism -- including a strongly-worded blast by this blogger last week -- for trying to paint the charismatic Obama, the first African American presidential candidate with a broad voter appeal, into a corner as "the black candidate," unable to attract white voter support.
Senator Clinton has since acknowledged that her husband's attacks on her rival "went too far" and contributed to Obama's larger-than-expected victory. The Illinois senator trounced the former first lady in the Palmetto State by a 28-point margin, winning every voter demographic except senior citizens 65 years of age and older.
Obama's ridden a huge wave of momentum in the week since then, nearly erasing Clinton's once-huge lead in the national opinion polls, picking up the endorsement of a growing array of political, business and media heavyweights -- including, unexpectedly and with some reservations, the arch-conservative, solidly Republican New York Post.
With former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee, dropping out of the race just hours earlier, Clinton and Obama alternated between civility and pointed swipes in their Thursday debate, sponsored and broadcast by CNN, amid a growing desire by many rank-and-file Democrats for the pair to join forces as the party's presidential and vice-presidential "dream team" going into the November 4 election against the eventual GOP ticket.
"The differences between Barack and I pale in comparison to the differences that we have with Republicans," Clinton said early on, in the kind of united gesture that won loud applause from the star-studded audience at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, site of the Academy Awards. Famous faces in the crowd included Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton, Steven Spielberg, Stevie Wonder and Jason Alexander.