US election diary: Vote overload

With Clinton back in the race, the US Democratic contest shows no sign of slowing.


    Clinton clinched three states to get back into the Democratic race [EPA]

    Remember when it was all about Iowa? And then all of a sudden it wasn't.

    Then it was all about New Hampshire, but that didn't last long. So, for a week or so it was all about Super Tuesday. Those were the days ... I remember them fondly.

    Previous entries

    Part 1: Obama factor
    Part 2: It's personal

    But it didn't last. And soon it was sorta, kinda, mostly about the Potomac primaries, but not really all about them.

    And then finally - really, truly finally - it was going to be make or break, do or die all about Texas and Ohio.

    Well, I spent 12 hours or so on an unexpectedly cold and windy Dallas rooftop doing live reports this past week in the firm belief that the above was what it was all about.

    So, I respond with a certain measure of scepticism when I am now told it is going to be all about Pennsylvania.

    I think we had better downsize our expectations about the Democratic nomination campaign ending any time soon. And I had better take a winter coat with me next time I go to Texas.

    Raising the stakes

    So, let's talk about Pennsylvania.

    It is a big state - the sixth most populous in the US - with 12.4 million people and with 158 delegates at stake.

    It is a diverse place with two big cities - Philadelphia and Pittsburgh - at either end, and a huge swath of farmland and smalltown America in between.

    Pennsylvania was once synonymous with big, metal-bending industries, but, like other so-called "rust belt" states, the big manufacturers have mostly cleared out.

    Now the state's biggest three employers are the federal government, the state government, and Wal-Mart.

    Winning strategies

    Obama is likely to do well in Pennsylvania's
    big cities

    Demographically, Pennsylvania looks tailor-made for Hillary Clinton.

    It is full of the kind of voters who went for her in Ohio, such as women (59 per cent of likely voters), white folks (76 per cent), union members (13.5 per cent of wage earners) and less well educated people (69 per cent are not college graduates).

    Barack Obama usually does well among young voters, but they comprise only about 10 per cent of the Pennsylvania voting populace, but nearly a quarter are 65-plus - the most Hillary-loving group of voters anywhere.

    Obama is likely to do well in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with their large African-American populations.

    But Clinton will likely try to duplicate her winning strategy in Ohio, which was to encircle the cities and rack up big margins in the hinterland. 

    Clinton also has the support of popular Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor who is an old-school machine politician with an extensive "get out the vote" network.

    The 'main course'

    Pennsylvanians can now look forward to Clinton and Obama traipsing all over their state for the next six weeks, holding who-knows-how-many rallies, town halls, coffee meetings and drive-by cavalcades.

    The candidates had better get their stomachs in shape for all the Philly cheese steaks, Pittsburgh pierogies (a type of dumpling) and York County shoo-fly pie (a dessert) they will be expected to consume.

    Before Pennsylvania there will be two smaller contests, a sort of amuse-bouche before the Pennsylvanian main course: A weekend caucus in Wyoming (a state that is so heavily Republican, its entire Democratic population could fit into the men's room of the Greyhound bus station in Laramie) and Mississippi on March 11.

    The Mississippi Democratic electorate is dominated by African-American voters, so Obama is expected to do well there.

    Strained relations

    McCain, left, has had a strained relationship
    with George Bush [Reuters]
    Meanwhile on the Republican side, let me digress just for a moment to ask, what was George Bush thinking when, while waiting for John McCain to show up at the White House's north portico, he showed off his tap-dancing skills for reporters?

    It was like watching a bratty eight-year-old at a family gathering trying to get the grownups' attention by showing off.

    The leader of the free world seemed to be saying: "Aren't I adorable? Don't pay any attention to the party's new leader! Watch me dance!"

    I was reminded of Clinton's television advertisement, with the ominous 3am phone call portending some horrible crisis that only she is equipped to handle.

    President Bush would not be able to hear the phone ringing over the clatter of his tap shoes on the Oval Office parquet.

    If only he were equally fast on his feet when it came to Iraq policy.

    On to Puerto Rico?

    Once McCain showed up, the body language between the two men could not have been more stilted.

    They might as well have been wearing biohazard suits for all the closeness they displayed. Those two guys just do not like one another.

    But let's get back to the Democrats.

    Don't forget - there are a dozen primaries or caucuses still ahead after Pennsylvania, ending with South Dakota and Montana on June 3.

    Actually, I am kind of hoping the heretofore unheralded primary June 1 in the US's Caribbean commonwealth will be the tiebreaker.

    Let's hear it for: "It's all about Puerto Rico!"



    SOURCE: Agencies


    Where are all the women leaders?

    Where are all the women leaders?

    Kamala Harris makes history as US vice presidential candidate, but barriers remain for women in power around the world.

    A new master's house: The architect decolonising Nigerian design

    A new master's house: The architect decolonising Nigerian design

    Demas Nwoko's structures are a model of culturally relevant and sustainable African design.

    Senegal's village of women

    Senegal's village of women

    Women in northeast Senegal are using solar-powered irrigation to farm food and halt the encroaching desert.