By Christopher Beam and Chadwick Matlin
This time, we really don’t know what to expect. Pollsters, still scrambling to catch up after Super Tuesday, haven’t sunk many resources in the next batch of contests, so we get to live a dream scenario where we—and the voters—don’t actually know whom the public favors. And from the polls we do have, we can’t construct a reliably solid average, since we can’t be sure that the limited numbers we’re seeing aren’t outliers.
Despite all this, we’ll go out on a limb and handicap the weekend’s contests below. Republicans aren’t included because Mitt Romney was a party pooper. If our Democratic predictions are wrong, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Saturday, Feb. 9
(67 delegates, closed primary):
There are only two things you need to know about the Bayou. First, Barack Obama
visited the state this month
—to propose a rebuild-New Orleans plan—and Hillary Clinton did not. Secondly, the state’s population is 32 percent black, according to
post-Katrina census figures
. Look for an Obama win.
Nebraska (31 delegates, closed caucus): It’s an Obama-friendly caucus that borders his mother’s home state of Kansas. Omaha’s paper showered him with praise Friday, running a glowing headline after his visit Thursday : "It’s Obamaha for a day." Chelsea Clinton has been doing all of the campaigning there for Hillary, who has never made a stop in the state. Obama should win this.
(97 delegates, semi-open caucus):
This is the big prize of the night thanks to a relatively large delegate total and built-in road blocks for each candidate. Clinton doesn’t like caucuses, and Obama is without a large black population to drive his vote. In
the only poll
taken over the last three months, Obama leads Clinton with a majority of the vote. (The poll was taken before Super Tuesday.) Perhaps more importantly, he leads Clinton slightly among women. A quarter of those surveyed say they’re planning to attend the caucus. Both candidates have campaigned in the state: Clinton has made three stops, Obama one. Early poll results mixed with a caucus system point toward an Obama win, unless Hillary’s in-person charm wins the Northwest over.
Virgin Islands (3 delegates, convention): You’re probably better off flipping a coin than taking this paragraph as gospel—but we’ll try anyway. Unsurprisingly, there’s no polling data to work with, but we do know that convention systems favor party die-hards (see Huckabee’s sort-of win in West Virginia ). Die-hards tend to favor establishment candidates, so we’ll predict that Clinton picks up three delegates here. You laugh at the puny total now, but wait until we’re neck-deep in obscure delegate law at the convention and these delegates end up making the difference.
Sunday, Feb. 10
Maine (34 delegates, caucus): Both candidates will be in the state Saturday, and Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy campaigned there earlier in the week. A caucus system suggests Obama might be the man of the day, but at least one Maine resident and professor doesn’t get it . The large white population coupled with Clinton’s establishment support suggests Obama’s sunk. But a caucus is a caucus, and until Clinton wins one where Latinos don’t play a disproportionate role (unlike in Nevada and New Mexico), we’ll favor Obama.
Tuesday, Feb. 12
The Potomac Primary
The District of Columbia was originally scheduled to hold its primary Jan. 8 but decided to band together with its Chesapeake siblings Maryland and Virginia to form a regional alliance. Separately, they would melt into the background; together, they could influence the contest big time.
District of Columbia (37 delegates, primary): Despite Hillary’s former occupation of a certain Pennsylvania Ave. residence for eight years, Obama holds an advantage. After Obama won more than 80 percent of the black vote on Super Tuesday, Washington’s largely black population will most likely swing his way. He also has the support of local heavies like mayor Adrian Fenty and councilman Marion Barry. Clinton hasn’t written D.C. off, and even beat Obama in a December straw poll. But it will be rough going. Also worth noting: a victory in the nation’s capital could hold some small symbolic value.
(99 delegates, closed primary):
Maryland’s nickname, the Free State, is fitting, seeing as Obama will likely get it for free. The state’s population includes a mix of Obama’s white support base—wealthy suburbanites, liberals, and college students—and the largest proportion of black voters outside the South. Clinton, however, has the backing of Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
Virginia (101 delegates, open primary): Of the three jurisdictions, Virginia will be the most competitive . Obama has Gov. Tim Kaine behind him, but Clinton has extensive connections to the region through spokesman Mo Elleithee and finance official Matt Felan. She’s also been sinking resources into the region, particularly in the outer suburbs of Prince William and Loudon counties. Obama is strong in Northern Virginia, with its immigrants and young professionals, but working-class sections of the southwest, where economic concerns are paramount, may swing toward Clinton.