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Nastiness ahead?

Justin Webb | 04:47 UK time, Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Supporters of Barack ObamaWASHINGTON DC: This is Alice in Wonderland: "Everybody has won, all must have prizes!" Obama friend and adviser Cassandra Butts has just given the BBC an impassioned interview in which she asserts that this goes now all the way to the Democratic National Convention in August. Could get nasty.

The question is whether the Republicans also make that journey. It seems to me the risk of civil war in the Republican party has been increased by the results tonight, because the fight in the Republican party is over policy as well as personality. Happy Birthday Roberta McCain by the way - she is 96 in a couple of days.

UPDATE 0558 GMT: I'm heading into a studio now to co-present the Today programme on BBC Radio 4... My final thoughts on the night, here, in three hours.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 05:22 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Oisin Deery wrote:

Edwards seems to have gained votes in many states. Does he also win delegates? If so, what happens to them? Will they be split between Obama and Clinton?

  • 2.
  • At 05:40 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Tyson P wrote:

This is not nasty at all for us voters! Finally, a primary season where everyone's vote counts -- not just people in the first 2-3 states. In 2004 it was all but a coronation by the time the primary came to Missouri. But today, my vote mattered!

  • 3.
  • At 06:02 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Politico wrote:

Where is the balance in the BBC? There were 3 prizes up for grabs - NJ, NY and CA - Clinton has won 2 and looks set to win the 3rd - if Obama even approached that - the media would be in hysterics.

You didn't even mention the win in Massachusetts for clinton - both senators backed obama and had a massive ground campaign - but yet clinton won.

No matter what type of movement is made against clinton - she always musters enough to fight and win - and incredible achievement tonight.

She also has the trump card of Florida and Michigan where the citizens may force the DNC to reinstate their delegates.

Edwards still controls those delegates - you can bet the clinton and obama camps will be trying to offer positions in their respective administrations for his delegates if the race draws tightly.

What an interesting evening (though it's not over yet, of course). Like Tyson, I'm sure there are many voters out there itching to get their ballot in, now.

Of course, the Republicans could have themselves a candidate far quicker than the Democrats- what do you think the effect of that would be? I would imagine a unified Republican party could wipe the floor with an interally divided Democrat party if they're given the chance.

The longer a nomination process goes on (and the more the various issues are debated) the more ammunition is handed to the opposition. It'll be interesting, that's for sure!

  • 5.
  • At 06:28 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Talleyrand wrote:

For the news media and news hounds, a slugfest at the conventions would be great, esp. in August during the caniculae. One thing that shows: The Democrats have two very good candidates. Even Edwards, number three, was quite good. Only his message simply wasn't broad enough. But overall, it's good news. Now the question is: authenticity and aggression. Can they fight off the GOP propaganda machine, the swiftboating, the calumnies and fake stories that will be run. If Obama becomes the candidate, it will be subtle attacks on his madrassa days. If it's Clinton.... watch for stories about her being gay, Whitewater again, corruption, etc... That is how the rabid right in the USA works.

  • 6.
  • At 06:53 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • apolonia wrote:

Why should it get nasty. If it is too close to call Clinton and Obama should do a time share presidency. Now that would be change!

  • 7.
  • At 07:52 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Lisa wrote:

Winning the big states in a proportional vote doesn't mean you won the race. Clinton won a few big states, Obama won a couple of big states and a whole lot of little ones, too. It's a dead heat because... it's a dead heat. To call Clinton's performance Tuesday anything but *expected* would be shoddy journalism. California, New York and Massachusetts do not decide the nomination--not this year. And, may I add, none of the states Clinton won were surprises. She was always projected to win them--the media focused on how Obama was catching up. But she was always ahead in the polls. And those states weren't landslides for her. She made a good showing, but Obama closed the gap somewhat, insuring that he'll take home a lot of delegates anyway.

As for Florida and Michigan--whether the decision to exclude them from the process was correct or not, to count those delegates now would be massively unfair, and would reward a candidate that bent the rules in order to gain an edge. Obama, and at the time, Edwards, abided by their parties wishes to pull their name from Michigan's ballot, and stay the heck away from Florida. Both Obama and Edwards are ground campaigners. Had they been able to campaign in Florida, I have a feeling the outcome would have been a lot closer. To count those votes would be to penalize a candidate who signed an agreement and stuck by it.

  • 8.
  • At 08:04 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Kay wrote:

Oisin.. Edwards delegates stay with Edwards. They do not in turn go to any of the candidates. Even though he is out of the race, it is looked at as he has suspended his candidacy. He does have super delegates he can award to one of the candidates when he endorses. It is hard to tell who he will endorse and when. The one most interesting thing I find not getting media attention in the right respect is that Obama has won 14 states Hillary only 8 by smaller margins than Obama's wins. That is a huge number and a good indication of how he would fair in a General Election over Hillary. There are over 60% of super-delegates not pledged. This means that people are waiting for an overall picture before endorsing. Super-delegates are members of state which endorse or vote for their candidate. Usually Super Tuesday gives a clear picture of the strongest candidate and the super-delegates follow suit in which the nation voted, but this is unlikely to happen this time. California is not done yet either and is only 40% reported, yet the media is projecting Hillary to win, I think the numbers will come in and close the lead that is projected, helping split those 370 delegates available now. Go Obama,

Kay, US

  • 9.
  • At 09:01 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • The Observer wrote:

The reporting of the result is a joke. It's not states that matter but delegates.

Why are none of the news channels reporting delegates won?

The reality is that Clinton will have a good lead after today - especially if you add in the committed superdelegates. Clinton is the winner because her wins, although of a similar margin than Obama's count more as they are worth far more delegates - a 1% swing in California gets you 4 delegates to the one delegate for a 1% swing in the likes of Alabama. Clinton winning in California, New York and New Jersey (and by much more than the polls predicted) is significant.

What is also clear is that Obama will lose come November because he cannot take the big states that matter - remember it is not proportional splitting in the US Presidential election but winner takes all.

  • 10.
  • At 09:16 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • carol felton wrote:

Why oh why is Justin Webb and the BBC news team quite so sexist? And so limited in their coverage of the democrats? (A) Hillary has a lead, and won California and NY! So for goodness sake give the woman some airtime! (B) What I would like to hear is a cogent overview of the policy differences between the two candidates. All we get is superficial coverage. For goodness sake become journalists - and inform - as opposed to platitudinous commentators. AND be unbiased! That's your job.

  • 11.
  • At 09:20 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Enrique Mendizabal wrote:

I really hope that Britain recognises what a (at least better) great system it has. This is Big Brother in a large scale. Vote for the most popular regardless of his/her ideas.

The media loves this, of course, because they can keep us watching for longer. But it is nothing to do with the issues, like the say in the US. Nor the policies, like they say here in the UK.


  • 12.
  • At 11:26 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Ian wrote:

Carol, have you ever thought that the BBC might think that we are already quite familiar with Hilary. She had extensive coverage as a politically active first lady. Her career as NY senator has also been followed closely. For many of us foreigner's McCainand Clinton are relatively well known. Barack Obama is a relatively junior senator and hence we have prior little knowledge of the man. Similarly Messrs Huckabee and Romney have not had international profiles. Reading the posts on this Blog I wonder why Justin Webb bothers given how much abuse he receives. By the way, a Blog is by definition a commentary!

  • 13.
  • At 12:12 PM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Lewis wrote:

I think it is a little naive to brand the BBC 'sexist' because one doesn't like the way they have covered the election. If one believes that the Republicans are getting too much coverage or that Obama's campaign is being featured more than the Clinton campaign say so, without needing to reach for cliches.

Perhaps there are other reasons for the difference in coverage- McCain's road to Super Tuesday has been full of drama and Obama is pushing Clinton despite having far less experience. Is it 'poor' journalism to make decisions about what makes a good story and what is of interest to an audience most of whom are not directly involved in the election. That is, after all, the job of a journalist...

  • 14.
  • At 02:12 PM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Andy Stidwill wrote:

Lisa says that none of the states Clinton won were unexpected, but really Massachusetts was a big win for Hillary given that both senators endorsed Obama.

It's true that Obama's number of states looks good, but they included narrow wins in small states such as Delaware and Connecticut, and with the proportional system those wins won't generate a lot of delegates for him over Clinton.

There's one other interesting point about the difference between primaries and caucuses. Wherever a caucus was held, Obama won. Since caucuses are very public affairs, maybe this is evidence that many white people especially have a very strong desire to be seen to be supporting Obama publicly, but he fares much less well when it comes to the privacy of the polling station with primaries.

  • 15.
  • At 03:01 PM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Bob wrote:

Now that Super Tuesday is over... you have witnessed the total destruction of the Republican Party here in the U.S.

McCain is more Liberal then some Democrats, and Huckabee & Romney split away votes from each other.... if united they would have a winning ticket.

But it appears that 2008 may be the Democrats year to win.

Obama & Clinton ... of these 2, I would believe Obama is the better choice for America. Another Clinton would be a total disaster.

  • 16.
  • At 03:46 PM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Sooner or later Barack Obama's lack of experience had better become a major issue or the most powerful office in the world could be occupied by someone who is dangerously underqualified. The media and Obama's opponents have failed to challenge him on substance or more accurately his lack of it. This is probably because they fear it would be construed as racism. Were he white, it would be a major issue and he would have been dismissed by most of the electorate long ago. His appeal is strictly emotional, his speeches more like the sermons of a Southern Baptist Preacher in cadence and style than a thoughtful coherent program to lead a nation, his ideas vague and undefined. What few concrete positions he takes on many issues are very disturbing. He is pro illegal alien even more so than McCain and Clinton and would give them driver's licenses the closest thing we have to a national identity card. He does not take a stong stand on national security. He supports many social programs which would require enormous tax hikes to pay for or entail huge deficits either very damaging to the economy. He is anti- business and to the extreme left of the American political spectrum. Is it conceivable that through his charisma alone he could get enough votes to be elected? Yes he can. Is it possible he could faithfully and skillfully discharge the responsibilities of the office of President given its complexities and difficulites? No he can't. America will get the government it deserves, even if its electorate is more than color blind.

  • 17.
  • At 04:55 PM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Raya wrote:

I've been following the comments on Justin's blog quite regularly now. At various times, he, along with the BBC, has been accused of being anti-Obama (especially by me) and recently, anti-Hillary.

With this in mind, I can't help but think it's been pretty fair reporting. I believe he's tried his best to reflect the mood on the ground and this obviously comes across as being biased.

As of now, the bias is in favour of Obama, simply because he's simply the man of the moment (I repeat - for now). He's exceeded expectations. Don't be too surprised when in a week or less, people start complaining that Justin (and the BBC) are coming across as very pro-Hillary. Justin is, if anything, ‘in the zone’.

A few observations:

Kay says the results are a "good indication of how he [Obama] would fair in a General Election over Hillary"

I really don't think that's true. The votes for delegates don't map meaningfully to election votes- for a start, many states have only registered Democratic Party members voting. What about the floating voters? How many of the Obama voters would vote for Hillary if they had to? And vice versa?

Carol says "Why oh why is Justin Webb and the BBC news team quite so sexist?"

I can't see any evidence of that. And given that we now only have two candidates, one male and one female, I can't see how you boil down any perceived pro or anti Hillary stance as simply being because of her gender- in fact, it seems quite sexist to do so!

  • 19.
  • At 06:47 PM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Moni wrote:

The spin on these results is nothing short of incredible. I can't believe people are buying into the expectations game being played by HRC's camp. Obama has steadily and surely eroded HRC's base and looks setto continue to do so. He not only won more states, he actually won more delegates on Tuesday. HRC was only able to break 60% in her home state of Arkansas. Obama broke 60% in 7 states!

As an avid consumer of all reports, I remember very distinctly HRC's camp claiming this would be wrapped up by Super Tuesday. Those comments only began to be retracted when the indications of the South breaking for Obama came in during SC.

If the Obama camp can continue to hold steady in the face of the Clinton panic, he is certain to go the distance.

  • 20.
  • At 05:26 PM on 07 Feb 2008,
  • Carmine LaMorte wrote:

I enjoyed reading your column, finally someone has the guts to call it the way it is. Pill popin Limbaugh and his cohorts are not the Republican party and do not dictate for the majority of us who are not all conservatives. I like to beleive that it takes all kinds to make up the party and I feel McCain will unite us all and be a good President who will not have tunnel vision,
Carmine

  • 21.
  • At 08:34 PM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

Mark writes that Obama is patently unqualified to be President of the U.S. due to his "lack of experience." After seven years of Bush II we can conclude, however, that experience is irrelevant to being a competent American President. Unlike Bush II, Obama is intelligent and articulate and a man with a deep sense of what is right and wrong. If elected, he will make a great President.

  • 22.
  • At 07:34 AM on 14 Feb 2008,
  • Martin McGonigle wrote:

It does seem as Obama has one of the most important things in these weird primary contests- Momentum.The Primary and Caucus voters seem to love a man on a roll and he certainly is that. Hillary's biggest problem now seems to be trying to stop the wave and actually pick up a state or two before it's too late. If Texas and Ohio go in the Obama column it's over bar the shouting.

  • 23.
  • At 06:52 PM on 14 Feb 2008,
  • Girish wrote:

A lot is made about Hillary's experience. Yes she has lived in the Arkansas governors mansion for 12 years and white house for 8 years. She knows where the toilets are and where there are good places to hide files. She just went along with the Bush policy and kept New Yorkers happy with directing tax payer funds. She failed to be the voice of objection to the war and she bought into the either you are with us or against us rhetoric and feared that she would be labeled unpatriotic. The Clintons had their time in the 90's. Bill was a good president but his indecent indiscretions will haunt the white house.They are now passe and some of their proposals are phoney. Universal health care will be an incentive for people who do not care for their health so that they can get sick take medicines and sue the pharmaceuticals for their misfortune. Universal health care proposed by Clinton will never work in a country that rightfully does not have a socialist system. People should choose an affordable health care as proposed by Sen. Obama and take care of their health and those who truly cannot afford good health care should be provided health care. More should be done to keep people healthy and responsible for maintaining good health by ensuring that they increase physical activity, don't consume fatty and sugary food, reduce meat and calorie intake, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, refrain from smoking, excessive drinking and practice safe sex. Washington is seen as spending the hard earned money of hard working Americans who have realized by the time they have paid taxes, rent/mortgage, debts, health and life insurance, car payment, gas/patrol, they have 20% of their income to live on. The President of USA is also a commander in chief who invariably has to deploy troops somewhere. After supporting the Bush blunder of sending troops into Baghdad, Hillary is trying to make an election promise that she will bring the troops back in 60 days without consulting the generals on the ground as to whether such a step would be feasible. To unilaterally withdraw the forces would be an even bigger blunder and a totally wasted effort. Hillary just wants to make history and promote herself, she is neither mother Theresa nor Maggie Thatcher, it is all about self promotion and USA has woken up to her election tricks to get herself elected. The history of USA is what we are worried about not whether the first woman becomes a President or the first African American becomes a president or a POW, becomes a president. That is academic and cannot change the fact that the current president has brought the USA into disrepute and the new President will have to change that.
The Clintons were not too helpful to Gore with his election bid in 2000. They fail to energize the youth and the masses, as both are sick of business as usual in Washington and these career politicians and government workers spending the tax payers money. So partly it is a movement against incumbents and career politicians. Also there are those who are sick of dynasties. The Bush dynasty was progressively intellectually weaker. Prescott Bush was a great senator, daddy Bush was not as good but respectable, the grandson Bush, I leave him to history to decide on him. Bill Clinton was very intelligent and an able administrator, Hillary is riding on his coat tails. In Obama, we see a new self made phenomenon. He has run a superb campaign and has managed his funds well and is not running deficits. He is at the same age as Bill Clinton was when Bill Clinton became the president. The country is about to choose a dynamic president and the torch will once again get passed to a new generation and the time is ripe.

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