Race Is Fluid As Vote Shifts To Big States
By: Wall Street Journal
By JACKIE CALMES
WASHINGTON — Americans frustrated by Iowa and New Hampshire’s clout in picking their presidents can take some heart: The two states’ electoral verdicts settled little.
Now the 2008 presidential-nominating race goes national, with no clear front-runner in either party and a whole range of new issues and constituencies that will play a big role in coming weeks in determining which candidates face off for the White House in November. Fund raising also will be a crucial factor.
After a year of person-to-person campaigning in a pair of lightly populated, mostly white and largely rural and small-town states, the presidential candidates now have to appeal to big-city voters — as well as Hispanics in Florida and California, in an election year when sentiment is running high against illegal immigration.
In Nevada, Democrats will be reaching out to labor unions and, in South Carolina and elsewhere, to large numbers of black voters. Republicans will have to balance appeals to their large base of evangelical Christians without alienating more socially moderate voters in the big coastal states and in suburban areas.
The new battlegrounds include pockets of economic distress. Nevada and Florida have been hit hard by the housing slump and have among the highest home-foreclosure rates in the country. Michigan, where the Republican race turns next, has long been viewed as a state in recession.
Nodding to the new shape of the campaign, Arizona Sen. John McCain, fresh from his big win Tuesday in New Hampshire’s Republican primary, told voters in Grand Rapids, Mich., yesterday: “I’m aware these are tough times in the heartland.” He then went on to describe his plan to help displaced workers, which includes promoting community colleges and worker-retraining programs.
One of his rivals, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, started airing a television ad in the state with footage of factory workers and crestfallen homeowners as Mr. Huckabee says: “We’re losing manufacturing jobs, homeowners face a credit crisis…”
After his defeat in New Hampshire, Barack Obama traveled to the New York City area and continued to draw a crowd. Paul Lin reports from a rally in Jersey City where some supporters eager to see the candidate had to be turned away.
With so little time to reach voters over such a wide area, television advertising is more essential in the next phase of the race — and comes at a high cost that may be the ultimate winnower of the presidential field. That’s why most of the major candidates are spending part of this week taking a pause from wooing voters to ramp up fund raising and refill their depleted coffers.
Yesterday, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney brushed off their second-place finishes in New Hampshire and headed next door to Boston for big fund-raising events. Mr. Romney was forced to conserve the resources of his previously big-spending campaign by pulling ads in Florida and South Carolina to focus his efforts on a victory in Michigan. Mr. Obama is combining his campaigning in California next week with a big Silicon Valley fund-raiser.
The Democratic contest has effectively boiled down to a two-senator race between New York’s Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama of Illinois, with neither having an edge. Both have the money and ground forces to continue their battle on multiple fronts through Feb. 5, or “Super Tuesday,” and beyond if necessary.
Sen. Clinton’s rebound from her Iowa loss last week to win the New Hampshire Democratic primary injected her campaign with new optimism and new cash yesterday. Sen. Obama got a big lift for their next big showdown — in the Nevada caucuses Jan. 19 — with endorsements from two big unions that are a major force in Democratic politics in that state.
Matters are more muddled in the Republican contest, with no evident favorite yet among the top four contenders. The winners of the first two states — Mr. Huckabee, an evangelical conservative who carried Iowa, and the maverick Mr. McCain, who took New Hampshire — both have money woes that could be fatal going forward, unless remedied quickly. They also face pockets of hostility among Republican voters.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, the socially conservative multimillionaire who had banked on winning both early states, has been badly weakened but has enough money from his personal fortune to continue. Rudy Giuliani, the socially liberal former New York City mayor, who skipped the early contests, jumps into the fray in earnest for the first time in the Michigan primary next Tuesday.
In both parties, second-tier candidates continue to press on and siphon off votes. In the Republican field, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a libertarian who opposes the war in Iraq, maintains an impassioned, Internet-linked network of supporters, while former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is hoping for a strong showing in his home region.
Among the Democrats, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards says he is staying in the race all the way to the summer convention. But New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is expected to withdraw today.
The main event is Feb. 5, when more than 20 states across the nation weigh in, including the biggest prize — California. But even before then, the candidates will be encouraging Californians and others in states with early voting laws to cast ballots ahead of time to lock in those votes.
Here’s a road map of what lies ahead:
Tues., Jan. 15: Michigan Republican Primary
Democrats agreed not to compete in Michigan, because its early primary date violates party rules intended to limit the number of state contests before February, and protect the traditional vetting roles of Iowa and New Hampshire.
For Republicans, it’s the first state where all four top candidates — one of nearly every political stripe within the party — will be facing off.
Mr. Romney announced his candidacy in Dearborn last winter to underscore his family roots in the state, where his father was governor in the 1960s. A loss on top of those in Iowa and New Hampshire would likely be fatal to his campaign, supporters say privately. Party leaders expect Mr. Romney to prevail, but Sen. McCain could get a bounce from his New Hampshire triumph.
Sen. McCain has a successful record there. He beat George W. Bush in Michigan’s 2000 primary and, while his cash-starved campaign has little organization, he retains core supporters.
As in New Hampshire, Michigan has an open primary. So independents as well as ticket-splitters among the state’s so-called Reagan Democrats could be drawn to the candidate who speaks best to economic angst — an appeal most identified with the populist Mr. Huckabee, who has largely been alone among Republicans in reaching out to working-class Americans and lambasting Wall Street greed.
Mr. Giuliani also is popular with these voters, in part for his leadership of New York following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sat., Jan. 19: Nevada Democratic Caucuses
Nevada is the Democrats’ next showdown state and, more than in Iowa and New Hampshire, support from labor unions is potentially decisive. Yesterday, despite Sen. Obama’s disappointing second-place finish in New Hampshire, he won the endorsements of Nevada’s biggest union, the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union, as well as the Nevada chapter of the Service Employees International Union, which includes about 12,000 registered voters.
Caucuses favor the candidate with the best organization, and unions specialize at turning out members. As in Iowa, votes aren’t by secret ballots.
Today, Sen. Clinton flies to Nevada to help shore up her support there.
Sat., Jan. 19: South Carolina Republican Primary
This will be Republicans’ first contest in the South. Christian conservatives are a major force, but many South Carolina Republicans care most about a strong military or antitax economics. The stakes are high for several candidates: Mr. Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister, as well as Sen. McCain and Mr. Romney. Mr. Giuliani once led in state polls, despite his record for abortion and gay rights, but has fallen to single digits as Mr. Huckabee has surged.
Sen. McCain lost to Mr. Bush in a bitter South Carolina primary eight years ago, but he now has signed up many of Mr. Bush’s establishment supporters. His stalwart defense of the Iraq war has won some voters, though social conservatives mistrust him as someone who has tangled with prominent religious political leaders. Mr. Romney has struggled to be seen as the most Ronald Reagan-like conservative, renouncing his socially liberal stands in Massachusetts, but his religion troubles some fundamentalist Christians who view Mormons with suspicion.
Sat., Jan. 26: South Carolina Democratic Primary
For Democrats, their South Carolina primary a week later is a decidedly different contest. Roughly half of the party electorate is black, making the state the first test of black voters’ allegiances in a campaign featuring a black candidate with the most serious chance in history of being the nominee. But Sen. Obama has significant white support as well.
Until Iowa, Sen. Obama was competing with Sen. Clinton for black voters, who fondly recall her husband’s presidency. But Sen. Obama’s success in heavily white Iowa had so many rallying to his side that Sen. Clinton’s campaign this week was discussing whether to effectively forfeit the state to him. Yesterday, post-New Hampshire, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said, “We’re going to compete vigorously” in all states, “and that absolutely includes Nevada and South Carolina.”
Given the Obama-Clinton appeal, Mr. Edwards is hardly competitive even though this is his birthplace and he won the state’s 2004 primary.
In a memo yesterday, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe noted his boss’s double-digit lead in polls and wrote, “as the gateway to Feb. 5th, South Carolina will provide our campaign enormous momentum heading into those twenty-two states.”
Tues, Jan. 29: Florida Republican primary
As in Michigan, Democrats aren’t competing in Florida because the state set its early primary date in violation of party rules. But for Republicans, the Sunshine State is a major arena.
It could be make-or-break for Mr. Giuliani, who campaigned there while other Republicans trudged through Iowa and New Hampshire snows. Yesterday, while his rivals were in Michigan and South Carolina, he chose Florida to unveil a new tax-cutting plan and a new Spanish-language ad for the state titled “Liderazgo,” or “Leadership.”
No longer the party’s national front-runner as conservative voters have learned more about his socially liberal record and three marriages, Mr. Giuliani has gambled that he could essentially skip the first contests and concentrate on more moderate and diverse Florida. Then, his thinking goes, he could parlay victory there into winning big states that vote Feb. 5.
While he still leads in statewide polls, his edge has eroded as Mr. Huckabee and Sen. McCain have lately picked up steam — Mr. Huckabee among Christian conservatives in the state’s north, and Mr. McCain among establishment Republicans elsewhere. Mr. Romney hoped to do well, but his backing has faded with his political setbacks.
Tues., Feb. 5: Super Tuesday
It’s long been expected that both parties’ nominees could be decided on this day, when about half the delegates needed for nomination are awarded. More than 20 states have scheduled Feb. 5 primaries or caucuses, having moved them up from later dates in hopes of gaining influence in choosing the nominees. But with so many states crowding the calendar, big states will dominate — especially California.
For Republicans, all of whom are struggling to raise enough money, the crush of states is a special challenge. Mr. Giuliani, in particular, has bet that his fame in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks will win him enough support to overcome his party’s aversion to candidates who support abortion and gay rights.
Among Democrats, Sen. Clinton is counting on winning in her home region — New York as well as New Jersey and Connecticut — and Sen. Obama in home state Illinois. But Democrats don’t have winner-take-all rules, so each is counting on picking up some delegates in states where the other is stronger.
In California and Arizona, Democrats in particular will be competing for the votes of the rapidly growing Hispanic population. Sen. Clinton started earlier than rivals Sen. Obama and Mr. Edwards in California and has locked up endorsements from major Latino groups and political figures. That early work is one reason she has held a commanding lead among Hispanics; a December poll had six out of 10 Latino Democratic voters backing her, compared with 15% for Sen. Obama.
Sen. Clinton’s lead in California and other Feb. 5 states would have been threatened had she lost both New Hampshire and Iowa. California observers already had detected some movement toward Sen. Obama, especially among younger voters. The Obama campaign is courting young voters aggressively on college campuses, and continuing to target independents to vote in the Democratic contests.
–Jim Carlton, Alex Frangos, and Elizabeth Holmes contributed to this article.
Write to Jackie Calmes at firstname.lastname@example.org
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