February 12, 2008

Potomac Primary Predictions

The key Potomac primaries in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC have all begun, and right now all of them appear to favor the momentum candidates. For the Republicans, John McCain has an opportunity to provide more lift for his all-but-certain nomination. Barack Obama needs a couple of big wins in the contests to make a momentum argument into Texas and Ohio:

The demographics in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia primaries suggest the senator from Illinois could pull off a political hat trick Tuesday over rival Sen. Hillary Clinton. However, the senator from New York said Obama's recent success doesn't faze her because future primaries will swing her way.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee is coming off big wins in Kansas and Louisiana, but Sen. John McCain of Arizona scoffed at the notion that the former Arkansas governor could close the roughly 500-delegate gap that separates the two GOP contenders.

At stake in the three primaries are 238 Democratic delegates -- 168 of them pledged -- and 119 GOP delegates -- 113 of them pledged.

The big contest for the GOP is in Virginia. It's the last of the big winner-take-all states, and a win for McCain would all but close out Mike Huckabee's chances. McCain leads his last remaining challenger by over 500 delegates overall and by double-digits in all polling in Virginia, as well as in proportionally-allocated Maryland. Huckabee has closed the gap to 11 in the last SurveyUSA poll, taken after Mitt Romney's withdrawal last week, but a loss by two would be as meaningful as a loss by 22.

For Obama, the gaps look similar, but the rewards less. All Democratic contests proportionally allocate their delegates, so Obama needs big wins to put some space between himself and Hillary. He leads in Virginia by an average of 18 points, and in Maryland by 22, according to Real Clear Politics. Those numbers appear fairly consistent over the last few weeks.

Predictions look easy for today. I'll predict sweeps by both McCain and Obama. For McCain, I'd guess that he wins Virginia by nine, with Huckabee's mini-surge falling a bit short. Maryland will go to McCain by twenty points, meaning McCain will take at least 23 of the state's 37 delegates. He'll take DC's 19 delegates in the winner-take-all contest by at least five points, giving him 105 delegates at night's end to Huckabee's 14, and the gap will increase to almost 600.

Obama will win them all today as well, but he will have to split more equitably with Hillary than McCain does with Huckabee. I'd give him roughly 60% of the 168 delegates at stake today. That will put him at 98 to 72, or a 26-delegate advantage over Hillary for the day. It will look more impressive as state wins than in the delegate race, which will be true from here on out with the Democrats.

I'll be live-blogging the Potomac Primary later tonight. The returns should be fascinating.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Please note that unverified Disqus users will have comments held in moderation. Please visit Disqus to register and verify your account. Comments from verified users will appear immediately.