Today, still 14 months out from the Republican National Convention, some journalists remain wary of thinking the race could be over so soon despite Rick Perry’s impressive polling. Amy Gardner at the Washington Post wrote yesterday that “Republicans are still shopping for a presidential nominee” and Ken Rudin argued on his NPR blog that the 1972 primaries provide historical evidence that all candidates should be considered viable nominees, especially this early in the game. However, we don’t need to go back decades to show that predictions of Perry winning the nomination are not necessarily premature; we only need to go back to the last presidential election.
At first glance, it seems the 2008 Democratic primaries prove exactly the opposite: Clinton was a frontrunner, and Perry is the current frontrunner, so isn’t it logical to assume that Romney or a new candidate could still win the primaries? Not exactly. Rick Perry is polling ahead for the same reason Obama eventually won his party’s nomination.
In September 2007, Hillary Clinton’s eventual nomination to be the Democratic candidate for the 2008 presidential election seemed like a no-brainer. Clinton had bested her rivals in the polls and the punditry for months. In the futures markets, Clinton was leading Obama by as much as 55 points. The Economist wondered: “Can Hillary be stopped? It’s looking less likely by the day.” Even George W. Bush predicted that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. But, by the beginning of election year, Obama and Clinton were in a dead heat. He scored endorsements from Oprah, John Kerry and Andrew Sullivan, raised a record $32 million in January 2008 and had his significant victory in the Iowa caucus.
The reason Obama beat Clinton in 2008 is because independent and moderate voters — the bread and butter of general elections — are mostly irrelevant in primary elections where passionate partisans drive decision-making. Obama looked like the best candidate to liberal Democrats in 2008—in part because of his long-standing opposition to the Iraq War—and those are the voters who matter most in the primaries for both parties. The same fundamentals are working to push Perry to the forefront now. Tea Partiers —the most vocal contributors in the primaries—find the ‘ponzi scheme’ Perry more attractive than his more moderate rival, just as Clinton couldn’t compete with the passionate rhetoric that liberals craved, and Obama offered, after eight years of Bush.
I realize it may get tedious, but I’m gonna keep correcting attempts to rewrite history.
Obama raised $99 million in 2007 from Wall Street bankers, health insurance company executives, oil company executives, energy company executives, and lots of other big money special interests. That’s more money than all the other Democratic candidates except Hillary raised combined. That’s an amazing sum for a freshman senator with no significant accomplishments in his entire life.
Obama was running a distant third for most of 2007 and didn’t move into real contention until late in the year. Then in January 2008 he won the undemocratic Iowa caucuses. The media spent several days singing “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.”
Then a funny thing happened. Hillary came from behind to win the New Hampshire primary. Shock and dismay rock the Obama camp. Allegations of cheating and racism abound.
On January 15, 2008 the State of Michigan held a primary as authorized by its state legislature but in violation of Democratic party rules. The media refused to call it a primary and instead referred to it as a “beauty contest.” Hillary Clinton won easily, due in part to Obama’s decision to remove his name from the ballot. Despite the fact that his name wasn’t on the ballot the Rules and Bylaws committee would later award Obama nearly half of Michigan’s pledged delegates.
On January 19th the Nevada Caucuses were held. Hillary got more votes but due to rules that gave more weight to some districts than others, Obama won more delegates.
Next came the South Carolina primary on January 25th. Rarely mentioned is the fact that approximately 65% of the Democratic voters in South Carolina are African American. In the weeks prior to the primary the Obama campaign (through surrogates) played the race card on Bill and Hillary. Obama won 98% of the SC African American vote and won the primary.
On January 29, 2008 the State of Florida held a primary as authorized by its state legislature but in violation of Democratic party rules. The media refused to call it a primary and instead referred to it as a “beauty contest.” Hillary Clinton won easily with 50% of the vote to Obama’s 33% (Edwards got 14%.) The Rules and Bylaws committee would later reduce Florida’s delegate count in half, reducing the effect of Hillary’s victory.
Then came Super Duper Tuesday on February 5th. Twenty-three states and territories participated. Hillary won Arizona, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The media declared Obama the winner and spent the rest of the month singing “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.”
Despite the assertions by the Obama campaign and the media (but I repeat myself) that Obama was the “inevitable” nominee, Hillary refused to quit the race. Then beginning on March 4th she won primaries in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico and South Dakota.
At the end of the primaries Hillary had won more votes than Obama. In fact, she won more votes than any Democrat in any primary campaign ever. Thanks to the Rules and Bylaws committee ruling on May 31st, Obama had a narrow lead in pledged delegates. Neither candidate had enough pledged delegates to win the nomination.
Obama became the nominee because of the super-delegates – the Democratic party establishment. They had secretly urged Obama to run and had promised to endorse him even while some of them were publicly endorsing Hillary. Hillary won the West Virginia primary by 41 points and the following day both WV senators (Byrd and Rockefeller) endorsed Obama.
As for Obama’s “long-standing opposition to the Iraq War,” that was a fairy tale.