- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Dark clouds storming destruction over Southern states Tuesday night give rise to political metaphors. We joke not nor do we trivialize; the painful parsing of polling numbers truly gave pundits and prognosticators pause for momentary reflection. It wasn’t that “Super” for either Democratic candidate now faced with ties and too-close-to-calls, but it did not lack the fierceness of a gambled horse race on warp speed of unknown fate.

Republicans clearly rallied, looking for the fix of their center base’s ideological high. “John McCain?” they query, doubt heavy, eyes squinting in gritty reflection. “We’ll go with old man Arizona ‘cause he earned it.” Who, consequently, now looks more old school than his “maverick” image can take him, the novelty of “Straight Talk” potentially outdone by “change agent” found in Sen. Barack Obama. Steely resolve will carry him through (despite bad stump jokes and grandfatherly gruff), he now faced with two candidates playing for No. 2. Though Mike Huckabee clearly played defense to Mr. McCain’s quarterbacking, the former Arkansas governor’s Southern wins merely confirm he’s the “Southern” candidate — where else can he go? Mitt Romney, struggling for a return on personal investment, gets no vibe from the GOP rank and file, few feeling the kind of flow assumed in the mannequin candidate.

The real action is with the Democrats. Clinton vs. Obama, the post-season clash of Super Bowl titans. Questions will raise sets of new questions from the previous night. Mr. Obama transformed from state grabber to national candidate, plucking up states and absorbing delegates with fresh ease in every region. Yet, on the flip, Mrs. Clinton wins the political hotness of New York and California. Sure, she won her “home” state — but, only by smaller margins compared to Mr. Obama’s llinoissince Empire State black voters bolted for Barack.

Mrs. Clinton got the Latino edge in California and the overwhelming support of women (translated: white women).Yet, few cared to discuss the swing of Asian voters appearing to break for Hillary. Mr. Obama must now address poor organization in Latino communities all too familiar with Nuestro amigo Clinton. How he solidifies Latino votes in Texas remains a mystery.Still, he did well enough in Colorado, where Latinos are 20 percent of the population, raising prospects in the very brown Southwest.

The public will get salty vexed to hear — in the postmortem — that nominations are based on delegate science. “Bump the states,” the political geeks clamor and joust about in plastic studios. “Who gets the most delegates is who wins this thing.” You hear it buzzed about like an irritating tropical insect in the ear, but few folks know what’s happening with that. Clinton risks the ire of an energized African American electorate if she persists with broken rules via shady grabs at uncounted Florida and Michigan delegates. “Shades of Florida 2000, shame of Ohio 2004,” the disenchanted might cry, black folks already through with Bill Clinton’s new card play on race. Wife of “first black president” no more, Mrs. Clinton could find herself in a quandary should she secure the nomination. Many black politicos indicating they’ll lift few fingers for the former first lady if she does a Kathleen Kennedy Townsend 2000 Maryland gubernatorial remix, picking an obscure, very white male and uninspiring running mate. Cats may very well stay home. Republicans, defying political gods, get at least another four years in “1600” luxury. Large Democratic turnout in the primary could disintegrate into a melee of non-voting grudges come November if party leadership isn’t careful.

Still, would Barack Obama even consider being vice president in a Clinton White House with nostalgic Bill sucking up all the political air? He doesn’t appear that desperate.

Curiously enough, what happens to the lot of black elected officials who put endorsement juice behind the Clinton machine? We suspect Rep. John Lewis seemingly chafed these days by young talented brothers running for office against white friends, might consider laying low after 88 percent of his state’s black vote rode Mr. Obama’s wave. Could there be a “blacklash” in black congressional districts? Could we see waves of resentful voters who may sign on to blogger Skeptical Brotha’s “Dear Handkerchief Head” letter?

That’s a little raw, but we sense the potential for reverse endorsements later in the stretch. What happens to “sistrens” such as Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and Sheila Jackson-Lee as they rail off against Mr. Obama in their quest to curry favor with Bill and Hillary? It’s probably too early to tell, but the paradigm shift challenges black-business-as-usual in profound ways. The playas continue to hate, geriatric politicos run for cover and relevancy.

However, a silver lining: We’ve arrived to a point where black elected officials can make whatever endorsement they want. The time where we are now a part of the larger political universe. Still, that won’t keep many from asking about the consequences. Evolution hurts.

Peter C. Groff, president of the Colorado Senate, is founding executive director of the University of Denver’s Center for African American Policy and founding publisher of Blackpolicy.org. Charles D. Ellison is senior fellow at the center and chief editor of Blackpolicy.org. They host the radio show “Blackpolicy.org.”

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