What to look for as you’re watching tonight’s returns:
Expect a good night for McCain. And just how good it will be you will be able to tell by watching the returns in Illinois. McCain wins that state, then he wins big that night and be all but the nominee.
For the Democrats, if I had to pick one state to watch it would be Missouri. It’s a mix of urban and rural, black and white, and East and West. Whoever carries it, you have to feel like the wind is a bit behind their backs.
And depsite all of that, you can’t underestimate the importance of the California results – which might not even be clear by the end of what promises to be a very long night. The trajectory path of both nominations will be determined by the California results.
John McCain’s solid, though not overwhelming, victory in Florida has given him all the lift he could have dreamed of going into Super Tuesday when about half the delegates will be chosen for the Republican nomination. Add to that key victory the very high profile endorsements he picked up last week and the result is some very powerful momentum.
Some argue that Romney’s money can keep him competitive and make things even with McCain. No way! If you gave Romney truth serum and asked him to pick money or momentum, he would take momentum in a second.
At this point, McCain’s destiny is back in his hands. Absent him messing up, falling down, or some new information surfacing, he is likely to win very big today. Romney can’t do much to change that at this point. Only McCain can torpedo McCain.
For the Democrats, the race is far more unclear. Hillary still maintains a slight advantage with her established organization and her slight lead in the polls, but Obama is rising fast. The key question today: is he rising fast enough to catch her?
The Democratic debate in California last week set the critical tone for these final days of the Super Tuesday push.
First, it was simply a historic moment for our country to see an African-American and a woman standing on that stage – know that one of them is about to secure a major party endorsement in this country for the first time ever.
Second, the Democratic candidates have figured out they need to start playing nice if they want to pull together a coalition headed into the November general election. It is absolutely crucial for Hillary’s supporters to feel good about Obama, and for Obama’s supporters to be enthusiastic about Hillary.
Third, this debate demonstrated clearly the difference in approaches of these two candidates. Hillary shows she is adept at the practice and the process of politics; Obama shows he is versed in the poetry of politics. And Democratic voters are going to have to figure out which style they want as their nominee.
Fourth, both candidates did very well, and showed command of the issues and the stage. Watching this debate, one felt they each had the gravitas and leadership ability to be President, and one could envision either one having the capacity to sit in the Oval Office. That’s a big hurdle in these elections. And that fact alone means you have to give Obama the edge. His weakness coming in among some voters was the question of preparedness to be President. He has cleared that hurdle. But whether that will be enough, will be seen – at least in part – tonight.