Presidential Contenders Look Past Super Tuesday

Obama addresses supporters i i

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama addresses supporters late on Super Tuesday. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
Obama addresses supporters

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama addresses supporters late on Super Tuesday.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Now that the delegate-rich Super Tuesday contests have come and gone, it's going to be more difficult for the presidential candidates to grab support in large numbers.

While the Republican Party appeared to have found its front-runner in Arizona Sen. John McCain, he was unable to immediately bump his rivals out of the race. For now, at least, he will have to campaign and raise money alongside former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

On the Democratic side, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama remain locked in a tight race. They'll continue to try to pick up delegates throughout the February contest, then take aim at March primaries in the populous states of Texas and Ohio. And they must take on the complicated process of courting the party's superdelegates.

The Democrats Court of Super Delegates

Now that the general public has participated in primaries and caucuses in 24 states — let the private wooing of the Democratic superdelegates begin!

"Really, there are two campaigns going on," said David King, lecturer at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "There is the public campaign with voters. The other is a very political, delegate campaign to get superdelegates."

Eight hundred of the Democratic Party's delegates are considered "superdelegates," meaning that they are free agents who can support any candidate regardless of the outcome of the state contests. The Republicans have a similar type of delegate called an "unaffiliated" delegate, although there are only about 150 of them.

King says the Clinton team, so far, has been more successful contacting and wooing the superdelegates; Clinton understands the process and has more contacts across the country than Obama. (Many superdelegates are governors or members of Congress).

The Day-After Super Tuesday Can Mean Super Money

After Super Tuesday in 2004, Democratic front-runner and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry raised $44 million in a single month. The preceding four weeks he raised only $8.5 million.

If 2004 is any indication, money will flow toward the parties' front-runners, a stream that could arguably help the Republican field more than the Democrats.

Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign raised $7 million during the final three months of 2007, according to the latest campaign financial reports; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poured $18 million of his own fortune into his campaign during the same period of time and ended the year with $2.7 million on hand. Campaign finance reports show that Romney has spent about $35 million in total of his own money.

The Democratic candidates have been more successful raising money. As of the end of 2007, according to Federal Election Commission filings, Clinton had $37 million on hand and Obama had $18 million.

Winning over the Losing Candidates' Supporters

Republican Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani endorsed John McCain after losing the Florida primary and soon after, the McCain camp started to court Giuliani's supporters and fundraisers.

Political scientists expect the same to occur on a larger scale following Super Tuesday.

"Once it's clear who the nominees will be, then the next thing to do is try to rally the losers to their side," says Northeastern University political scientist William Mayer.

But not all of the "losers" have played along, so far. Neither former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards nor New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson endorsed a Democratic rival when they dropped out of the race.

Next on the Calendar...

Since it is mathematically impossible for Democrats to anoint a front-runner on Super Tuesday — given the way the party awards its delegates proportionally — the campaigns inevitably will continue until a candidate drops out, or until the next round of primaries.

The next contests are only days away on Feb. 9 when voters go to the polls in Louisiana, Washington, Kansas (GOP only) and Nebraska (Democratic only).

On Feb. 12, Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents vote.

If there's still no Democratic front-runner by March, look for results in two key states: Ohio (141 Democratic delegates, 88 GOP delegates) and Texas (193 Democratic delegates, 140 GOP delegates).

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.