San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 3rd, 2008
Lining up late

Editor at Large

As the party primary elections come to us Tuesday, once again Texas comes up smelling like a yellow rose.

Under most circumstances, the presidential nominees already are decided when the primary schedule winds around to Texas. The presidential election years tend to produce dull primaries in Texas for that reason. The real excitement usually arrives with the off-year primaries, when Texas voters pick their gubernatorial nominees and, as often as not, their U.S. Senate nominees. Locally, the off-year primaries also produce nominees for Hays County Judge and Precinct 2 county commissioner.

But the presidential year primaries often determine nothing. It just happens this time that Democratic voters across America haven’t picked by now between Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

So, Texas Democrats are excited. Early voting closed in Buda last Friday with an extraordinary scene, lines more than 200 deep stretching from the polling room at City Hall, across the front sidewalk and all the way to the traffic light at FM 967 for the entire day. Voters waited in line for more than two hours.

Early voting is supposed to offer the advantage of avoiding the long lines on Election Day. But the early voting line in Buda last Friday was at least as long as the line on any Election Day in recent memory.

Here’s the score. The Democrats will send 4,047 total delegates to their nominating convention late this August in Denver. More than two-thirds of the pledged delegates already are assigned and neither Clinton not Obama is close to the 2,024 delegates needed for nomination. Counting unpledged “superdelegates,” CBS News puts Obama at 1,385 and Clinton at 1,275. After Tuesday’s election, only 611 regular delegates are left to be assigned by the Democratic Party.

By the convoluted behavior of political campaigns, this nominating process figures to last all the way to the convention floor. Obama is surging, which doesn’t mean he’s about to lock up the nomination. It means anything but. Having taken a slim lead as the unknown candidate, Obama now will be subject to increasing scrutiny as the public and media take him seriously as the party nominee. A critical backlash is inevitable.

Meanwhile, Clinton is cleverly keeping her sunny side up, happy to take votes that fall her way. Clinton also holds, by accounts, about 55 percent of the superdelegates, who will be decisive if the voters run about evenly in her favor.

If nothing else, the primary election is a victory for the Democratic Party in Texas, which resisted the urge to move its primary up to create a larger impact in this front-loaded process. The Democratic parties in Florida and Michigan are paying a price for defying the national party and pushing their primaries earlier on the calendar. As of now, the national party won’t recognize those delegates at the convention.

In a close primary process, the later election makes a larger impact. Wisely, the Texas Democrats decided to stay put. Maybe the better word is “luckily.”

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