Obama, Clinton duel to a draw on Super Tuesday
He won more states; she won more big states and a few more delegates. Battle to last through March at least, analysts say.
The Democratic presidential contests on Super Tuesday turned out a couple of surprises: Hillary Rodham Clinton won Massachusetts despite Barack Obama's endorsement by some of the state's leading political figures, and Senator Obama beat Senator Clinton in Connecticut, next door to her adopted home state of New York.
But mostly the day ended as it began: a muddle. Obama won 13 states to Clinton's eight, but she won more populous states, giving her an edge in the delegate tally.
The night's only casualty was the prediction, made by Clinton as recently as December, that the fight for the Democratic nomination would end with the crush of coast-to-coast contests Tuesday.
"Nothing decisive happened tonight," says William Mayer, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston who is an expert on the party nomination process. "If I happened to be running a campaign, I'd say, 'OK, what's the next primary? Get a good night's sleep because tomorrow we're getting up.' "
Obama won his home state of Illinois and its neighbor, Missouri, a national bellwether for the general election. He also racked up victories in the heavily black states of Alabama and Georgia and across a broad arc of the Midwest and Rocky Mountains that included Republican-tilting states like Kansas, Colorado, and Idaho.
Clinton took most of the night's biggest delegate lodes with wins in California, New York, and New Jersey. She also won Arkansas, where she was first lady, and two of its neighbors, Oklahoma and Tennessee, as well Arizona, with its heavy concentration of Latino voters.
The vote in New Mexico was being counted and too close to call.
The Democratic Party awards delegates in proportion to the vote within states. Clinton won 584 Tuesday, compared with 563 for Obama, according to Associated Press estimates. That gives Clinton a total of 845 delegates to date and Obama 765 – still a long way from the 2,025 needed for the nomination.
Analysts expect the political duel to last at least through March and possibly through the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, though few were yet predicting a brokered convention, which would be the first for Democrats in about a half-century.
"Super Tuesday confirmed that we have two very credible Democratic candidates who are going to spend a lot of money beating each other up," says Jack Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.
Each side could – and did – claim some bragging rights Tuesday. Clinton beat back Obama's eleventh-hour surge in the polls in California and New Jersey, and demonstrated a near lock on Latino voters, nearly 70 percent of whom voted for her in California. Latinos will play an important role again in delegate-loaded Texas on March 4.
Obama proved he could win "red states" that will be battlegrounds in the general election and made advances with two groups of voters normally in Clinton's column: women and whites. He still trailed Clinton in those groups Tuesday but by slimmer margins than in past contests, according to exit polls.
In addition, Obama pulled even with Clinton among white men, a step up from earlier contests, and kept up a winning streak with whites younger than 40, underscoring a sharp cross-racial generational divide between supporters of the two candidates.
"Hillary can say, 'A week ago, it seemed like the momentum was strong for Barack Obama, so we did better than expected,' " says Robert Sahr, a political scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. "Barack Obama can say, 'Look, a month ago we were behind essentially everywhere, and tonight we won [about as much as] they won.' "
Analysts say Obama's chances at winning the nomination will hinge on his ability to make further advances with white and older voters.
Clinton's victory in Massachusetts was a setback for Obama, who was endorsed by Gov. Deval Patrick and two local political figures with national firepower: Sen. Edward Kennedy, the elder statesman of the Kennedy dynasty, and Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.
Obama narrowly won the city of Boston, but exit polls showed that Clinton carried the state with the support of women, older and lower-income voters, many in working-class cities like Worcester and Fall River. Obama's defeat in Massachusetts raises questions about the influence of Kennedy's endorsement elsewhere.
Obama also denied Clinton a sweep of states neighboring New York with his victory in Connecticut, where Clinton held a 13 percentage point lead in the polls as recently as late January.
Analysts partly credited Obama's win to the state's well-to-do population and the same antiwar sentiment that led to Joseph Lieberman's defeat in the Democratic primary for Senate in 2006. (Senator Lieberman, who was reelected that year as an independent, drew favorable ratings from just one-third of Connecticut's Democratic voters in exit polls Tuesday.)
"Given Clinton's vote to authorize the war, Connecticut is one of the states where I would have looked for an antiwar backlash," says Kenneth Sherrill, a political scientist at Hunter College in New York. "This is a cohort of the Democratic Party that's really unforgiving on the war."
Surveys of voters leaving the polls reinforced some long-running trends, including Clinton's strong support among women and Obama's among blacks. Clinton remained the choice of voters seeking experience, and Obama the favorite of voters wanting change.
But it also pointed up some striking new ones. In California, Clinton picked up about three-quarters of the Asian vote. Asians will play a role again in the Feb. 19 caucus in Hawaii, where Obama was born and spent part of his childhood. Another finding was that while Jews in New York backed Clinton 2 to 1, Jews in Massachusetts narrowly supported Obama.