When Germans asked me who the next president of the United States will be, I always responded, "Ask me after Super Tuesday." It turns out that . . . I still do not have an answer. However, one thing is certain about last night . . . I am really glad that I did not stay up to watch the returns. At 11pm German time I decided I was too tired to watch TV and I went to bed. At 6am the picture had not yet cleared.
The Republican Side
The only real "winner" on Tuesday appears to be John McCain. His wins in the delegate rich states of California and New York clearly give him front runner status. Romney is not out but he has been knocked to the matt.
It was Huckabee's wins in the South that surprised many commentators. With a little money, he was able to prove that his voice cannot be ignored. However, I have the feeling that he is manouvering himself into a VP nomination. This would not be a bad thing. A McCain-Huckabee ticket would draw in the Republican conservative base as well as the independent appeal of McCain. It kind of reminds me of the JFK-Johnson ticket.
On the other hand, do not buy into the hype that McCain is not a "real" conservative and thus at danger of loosing the general election. Right wing conservatives will vote for the Republican candidate and not the Democratic one. The fight in American politics is always for the middle. McCain knows that.
The Democratic Side
Who won the Democratic primary last night? Well, that all depends on who you ask. The total number votes cast as well as the numbers of delegates won for each candidate may turnout to be equal. We cannot say just yet. It is only 10am in Germany and 4am on the east coast of the US. These vote counts are going to take awhile.
The Clinton campaign will say that they are the big winner of the night. They "won" the big states of California and New York. The Obama campaign, on the other hand, will say that they won because he won more states.
What impressed me the most were Obama's "wins" in the mid-West. Obama has had to fight the preception that Middle America will not vote for him, and thus he would loose the general election. I think that he proved last night that that is not the case. Democrats need to keep this in mind. Clinton may jazz up the liberal base of the party in New York and California, but the general election will not be won there alone. Could she beat a McCain-Huckabee ticket? I am not sure.
The Big Picture
Both parties need to remember that perception and momentum is everything in politics. Giuliani is a good example of that. He thought he could play a numbers game by skipping the first few primaries and then winning in Florida. However, he could not win in Florida because he was not in the news. He was not the story. And he lost. But, dude, I predicted that.
It will weaken any party if a fight for the nomination becomes too long and it appears to be divided. The party that chooses its candidate first and then gets behind that candidate will do better. The media pounces on in-fighting, which in turn makes voters nervous. This is not only true in the U.S. but in most other countries. In-fighting has severly damaged the SPD in Germany and if the Democrats are not careful, then it will hurt them too. I am a Democrat and I do not want to see that happen to my party.
All that said, it was a great night for turnout and participation in the U.S. The one great thing about all of this chaos is that is politically engaging. For the first time in a long time, Americans are being drawn to the polls. That is not only good for the parties, but also for democracy.
UPDATE: Check out this article on MSN / The New York Times, which basically says exactly what I did above about a party rallying around its candidate. Damn I am good. I posted several hours before the NY Times. Where is my political commentator job?