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Posts published in “Day: February 6, 2008”

WA: Next up

Now that Super Tuesday is over, you may be wondering (or you may be avoiding wondering) what's coming next. This from the front web page of the Washington state Democrats may help enlighten:

Event update:
- Barack Obama will visit Seattle on Friday
- Bill Clinton will visit Seattle on Thursday, Tacoma on Saturday
- Michelle Obama will visit Spokane on Friday.

One other report has Bill Clinton in Spokane as well. All this is not, obviously, coincidental or random. Washington's party caucuses - both Republicans and Democrats - convene at 1 p.m. on Saturday. These will be precinct caucuses (as in Iowa) rather than county caucuses (as in Idaho), and the results from them will be used to select the presidential nominees. There is a presidential primary on February 19, and state officials are encouraging participation in it, but it will not count toward the Democratic nomination, and only in part toward the Republican.

On the Republican side, Arizona Senator John McCain probably enters the process as the likely winner. He has some military-related base in Washington, and neither of his (still current) opponents, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, have in Washington the demographics that have worked well for them elsewhere.

That said, the Seattle Times suggests this: "On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain — the biggest winner Tuesday — still has no paid staff in Washington and no plans to come here before the GOP caucuses. Instead, his campaign appears more focused on the state's Feb. 19 primary, where he has a better chance of pulling in independent voters. Could that open the door in Washington for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had a surprisingly strong showing Tuesday? Or could this be the state where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney revives his sagging campaign?"

Meaning, might we see a last-minute push from Romney or Huckabee? So far, no indications of Republican candidate campaign stops in Washington this week; but that could yet happen.

On the Democratic side, Obama has been organizing in Washington for some months, and Clinton's efforts have been visible but less deeply organized - a loose parallel to what happened in Idaho and other caucus states where Obama has done well. And they've been at it a while. Almost exactly a year ago today, a nascent Obama organization in Seattle touted a meetup for more than 100 organizers, and said "the Seattle Meetup for Obama has grown to over 150 members and is now the largest chapter of its kind in the country . . ." It has grown considerably since then, and it has an impressively long list of activities and events planned in the next few days. There are also a bunch of county Obama organizations. (Check the Whatcom County site, for example.) And Obama has endorsements from the dailies in Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver.

At Horse's Ass, Goldy's take on this: "The challenge for Obama supporters is not simply to win this Saturday but to win big, which in a caucus scenario requires both turnout and persuasion. "

Clinton has some solid pluses too, including the superior roster of big-name endorsees - Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, former Governor Gary Locke, Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, Representatives Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee, King County Executive Ron Sims and Snohomish Executive Aaron Reardon. (Most of these, by the way, are superdelegates.) States with a strong and long-evolved Democratic structure have done better for Clinton, and Washington is one of those. And Paul Berendt, a former state Democratic chair newly on the Clinton team, describes in Washington "a profound feminist ethic in our Democratic politics" which could help the New York senator.

The Washington state Democrats did conduct a straw poll from November 29 to December 14, but it's not much help in figuring this out. First place in it went to Dennis Kucinich, now out of the race, with 1,083 votes, and second place to John Edwards, now out, with 1,042. (They did a good organizing job for the straw, you gotta admit.) Obama got 960 and Clinton 761 - so, no results we can really draw to here.

Idaho was a definitive sweep. Washington looks tilted to Obama - the odds seem to be with him - but the state still has the look of something that will be hard-fought, not swept.

The size and the disposition

Some followup on initial thoughts about the Idaho caucuses, mainly expanding on the two obvious points: The Obama unanimity, and the sheer size of the turnout. (Full numbers are at the state Democratic web site.)

bullet The sweep for Illinois Senator Barack Obama was overwhelming. He took 43 of Idaho's 44 counties, and the one lost - Lewis, in the north-central - is one of the smallest. (No obvious answers to that outlier, other than that Lewis is unusual in that it is small, remote, rural and still has a substantial local Democratic core, which may retain some loyalty to the Clinton Administration.)

Among larger counties, the Obama percentages were remarkably consistent, many in the 70-85% range - Ada 84.5% (district 1 at 84%, and 2 at 87%), Canyon 76%, Kootenai 81%, Latah 80%, Nez Perce 71%, Bonneville 78%, Twin Falls 74%. Bannock would have to be considered on the low end, with just 68% in the Obama column.

Apart from Lewis, the best Hillary Clinton numbers came in some of the mid-population or smaller farm counties which have strong Hispanic populations - Lincoln (43%), Jerome (42%), Bear Lake (42%), Franklin (37%), Minidoka (36%), Washington (36%), Camas (36%). And Shoshone County (43% Clinton), which like Lewis has a still-in-place local Democratic establishment.

bullet Stats from 2004 and earlier aren't readily available - we'll try and find some - but it certainly seems as if the more than 21,000 participants in the Tuesday Idaho caucuses blew well past anything the state had seen from Democrats before.

The reasons are less clear. Some of it may have been support for Obama. Some of it may have been a party switch, or increased involvement on the part of independents. Whichever, this will call for some ongoing inquiry.

We fielded a question from D.C. this morning to the effect: Does the high turnout in Idaho caucuses portend a voter shift in November? Our thought is that point shouldn't be pushed too far - while more than 20,000 participants packed the caucuses, the voting population in November may top 650,000, so this still is only a small percentage of that.

But it doesn't feel irrelevant, either.