The results of last Tuesday’s primaries held in the United States confirmed that the Republican Party now has its candidate for the presidential election of this coming November: Senator John McCain, who won by a comfortable margin over his opponent Mike Huckabee. In contrast, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, with her victories in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas, succeeded in reviving her candidacy and prolonging the duel with Barack Obama to determine which of the two will face the Republicans.
The conquest of those states meant a breath of fresh air for Clinton after 11 consecutive victories by her opponent in the past month. It was a successful day based on the vote of those sectors that have always been loyal to her. In spite of the effort expended, the victory only meant a net gain of no more than 20 delegates for Clinton. According to calculations by CNN, after the elections of last week, the number of delegates accumulated was 1,328 for Obama and 1,190 for Clinton.
Close to 750 delegates are still up for grabs in the states that have yet to hold primary elections. This number could change if the Democratic Party decides to authorize a redo of the electoral query in the states of Florida and Michigan this coming May or June. In any case, by the end of the contest, it’s very probable that neither Clinton nor Obama will obtain the Democratic Party nomination (which requires reaching 2,025 delegates) without resorting to the vote of the so-called superdelegates.
The group of superdelegates is made up of almost 800 outstanding Democratic figures (senators and congressmen, among others). According to CNN, 238 of them have already aligned themselves with Clinton and 199 with Obama, while the rest (some 360) have still yet to decide. For both candidates it is of vital importance to win by a stretch in the primaries, so that the superdelegates that have not yet cast their vote end up backing whichever one has achieved a clear majority at the Democratic National Convention in August.
The tough struggle between the two hopefuls puts the party in a dilemma. Both have thrown themselves into a battle plagued by personal attacks and discredit that could damage Democratic aspirations of regaining the presidency. Clinton says that not only is her opponent inexperienced or indiscreet, but also insinuates that he is an undercover Muslim. In turn, Obama questions – each time with more force – the experience and determination of his opponent, as well as the origin of her campaign money. The duel has also forced both hopefuls to carry out maneuvers that might distinguish them to the voters. In Ohio and Texas, for example, both promised to revise and even renegotiate the Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
They are starting to suffer the consequences of the attacks, leaks and mutual reproaches. A Pew opinion poll indicates that one fourth of Clinton voters in the primaries would prefer to vote this November for John McCain, in the case that Obama wins the Democratic nomination. On the other hand, one tenth of Obama supporters would prefer the Republican candidate before Clinton. This data suggests the enormous risk this would mean for the Democratic Party to arrive very divided to the National Convention. In fact, the Democrats usually lose the presidential election each time this happens to them.
The Democrats urgently need a negotiated solution. One possibility to reunify the party and avoid a fratricidal battle that is gaining strength is having both candidates manage to compose a single electoral formula. According to a recent poll, three out of every five Democratic voters are in favor of this proposal. Though both candidates have said it is still very early to consider this possibility, neither of the two has ruled it out. It is clear that for the moment they are more interested in determining which of them can lead it.