Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Buckeye breakdown

With yet more superdelegates switching to Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination, the question has arisen as to whether the nomination fight will be over next Tuesday. The more information that we get about how the race is shaping up in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont, it becomes more likely that both Clinton and Obama will survive the night and go on-provided they both wish to do so. Hillary is likely to win Ohio (and possibly Rhode Island) because she is, as Professor Allan Louden pointed out to Newsweek's Katie Paul, speaking to Ohio concerns (however disingenuously):

The moderators tried to exploit the tension between the Texas and Ohio
audiences, and the candidates are well aware of that. I think she won the debate
in Ohio, in that she spoke much more about Ohio local concerns, grounded in
citizens’ reactions, how many kids are covered by insurance. I would say
three-quarters of her answers had a recognizable Ohio reference. And that’s
probably good politics. His wasn’t nearly as specific to Ohio, but more about
the meaning of election, aimed at a national audience. It was more about how to
interpret what’s going on. I think she wins the debate in Ohio, but he wins the
debate nationally.

Whether a candidate is speaking to a Republican or a Democrat-and in Ohio, both parties have good Statewide organizations so you could be speaking to either and to both-it is very hard for a candidate who campaigns in Ohio to say "NAFTA has been good for you." Jobs and people are leaving Ohio at a near-record rate, and most of the jobs leaving are those of the industrial variety that NAFTA opponents warned would leave as a result of that flawed trade agreement.

From a conservative Republican perspective, a big part of the reason for Ohio's economic woes has to do with the reality that the people there are overtaxed (Ohio was the 4th-most taxed State in the Union last year), and underpaid-literally, taxes eat up income in Ohio like rabbits eat greens. As Clinton and Obama could use the platform of the Democratic debate to address NAFTA and the decline in Ohio's industrial base, Mike Huckabee could use a Republican debate with John McCain to effectively raise the issue of how over-regulation and over-taxation are causing the flight of talent and energy from the State.

There will be no debate between McCain and Huckabee in Ohio because McCain does not want one, and because the State GOP establishment there which is backing McCain knows that Huckabee would likely raise the issues that could cause the party base to seriously question McCain, and he likely would bring the policies of the Ohio GOP establishment itself into question.

Barack Obama missed a golden opportunity to make inroads in Ohio by tackling NAFTA in detail. While Hillary Clinton talked about children's health care and other related social concerns, Obama could have reminded the audience that those concerns would be significantly lessened were it not for the jobs leaving Ohio for foreign countries at such a rapid rate. It makes one wonder if Obama is not concentrating on Texas quite deliberately because of the larger delegate haul.

Prediction: Obama wins Texas and Vermont, Clinton wins Ohio and Rhode Island. Obama will receive significant delegates in the States he loses because of the Democrats' proportional allocation system, and the same will be true for Hillary,and the Democratic race, like the Energizer Bunny, will keep going and going and going...

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