- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Back in early November, John McCain’s support level among prospective Republican-primary voters averaged 15 percent in five national polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. Meanwhile, citing five surveys of voters likely to participate in Democratic contests, RealClearPolitics reported that Hillary Clinton had built an average national lead of 22 points over Barack Obama.

In the seven Republican contests held in January, Mr. McCain won three (New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida) with an average winning margin of 35-31. Mitt Romney also won three contests (Wyoming, Michigan and Nevada), and Mike Huckabee captured the first event (Iowa). From those seven contests, Mr. McCain emerged with 96 delegates, Mr. Romney collected 67 and Mr. Huckabee won 26. Considering all the fireworks, nobody had much to show, especially given the fact that the eventual nominee would need at least 1,191 delegates and that the 15 states holding primaries and the six holding caucuses on Feb. 5 would be sending 1,020 delegates to the Republican convention.

After Super Tuesday, building on his winner-take-all Jan. 29 Florida victory, Mr. McCain emerged the front-runner for the Republican nomination. He won nine of the 15 primaries, beating Messrs. Romney and Huckabee in the major states of California (42-34-12), Illinois (47-29-17), New Jersey (55-28-8) and New York (51-28-11). Mr. Romney won primaries only in Massachusetts and Utah, and three of his five caucus victories came in Alaska, Montana and North Dakota. Mr. Huckabee prevailed in four Southern primaries (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee), all of which will likely be won by the eventual Republican nominee — unless a recession-minded electorate gives the Democratic nominee a 48-state blowout victory.

The Democratic nominee will need the support of 2,025 delegates. From the four spirited Democratic contests in January, Mr. Obama, who beat Mrs. Clinton 38-29 in Iowa and 55-27 in South Carolina, emerged with 63 delegates. Mrs. Clinton, who defeated Mr. Obama 39-37 in New Hampshire and 51-45 in Nevada, walked away from those four contests with 48 delegates. That set the stage for Tuesday, where 16 primary-holding states and six caucus-holding states would send 1,681 delegates to the Democratic convention. Amazingly, it appears that the two candidates have split that huge pool of delegates almost precisely in half.

Mr. Obama won 13 states, including Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota and Connecticut. Mrs. Clinton won nine states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The Democratic nomination could well be decided at the party’s convention this summer.

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