Today is Super Tuesday, often referred to as the most important day on the primary calendar. The states that vote today are home to almost 20 million more people than the entire population of the United Kingdom, and the 595 Republican and 1,004 Democratic delegates on offer represent almost half the total needed to win each party’s nomination. In every presidential election since 1988, the winner of the most states on Super Tuesday for either party has gone on to be the nominee.
After several months of preamble, the nominating process to find the next president of the United States officially started this week with Monday’s Iowa caucuses. The theme on both sides of the political divide was of outsiders breaking down barriers. Hillary Clinton became the first woman ever to win in Iowa, while Ted Cruz went one better, becoming the first Latino to win a presidential primary or caucus in any state.
With the New Hampshire primary two days away, it seems this theme will continue, with real estate mogul Donald Trump and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders the unlikely frontrunners in their respective primaries. While the arrival of the outsiders will likely dominate the headlines of Wednesday’s newspapers however, of perhaps more importance to the race is the ‘parallel primary’ taking place within the Republican field: a four-way battle for the support of the establishment.
It is now one month before Americans go to the polls to vote in the final midterm elections of Barack Obama’s presidency. This first preview post will focus on what looks to be the most important and interesting battleground of this election season: the Senate.
On the face of it, not much changed last night. After a campaign in which an estimated $2 billion was spent, the White House, Senate and House of Representatives are all in the same hands as they were when polls opened. But in a greater sense, last night signalled a significant shift in the United States; an important election, possibly even on par with Barack Obama’s monumental victory in 2008.
Watching the vice presidential debate on Thursday night, the informed viewer could not help but be struck with certain impressions about the evening and its differences from its presidential equivalent last week. While last week’s clash saw the Republican challenger take the game to the Democratic incumbent, forcing him into a passive corner, Thursday saw the opposite, with Joe Biden harrying Paul Ryan, challenging his assertions and refusing to allow what he saw as misrepresentations of either side’s policies. It was, as the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald wrote, ‘a pure reversal of the first presidential debate, but on steroids‘.
It is fair to say that the first of this campaign’s presidential debates did not go exactly as anticipated. We were told to expect a policy-light affair, in which the candidates would focus on landing ‘zingers’, and in the end President Obama would win. This did not turn out to be the case. The candidates engaged in real policy discussion, soundbites were surprisingly few and far between, and importantly, unmistakably, Mitt Romney came out on top.
Though the Republican National Convention has been over for a few days now, the speakers moved on to other commitments, and the Democratic equivalent in full swing, it still has an odd, rather incomplete feel to it. The customary bump in the polls which usually follows a convention has failed to properly materialise for Mitt Romney, no real issues of significant substance seem to have arisen, and the candidate even lost the news cycle the next day to an empty chair.
‘Every now and then I’ve been known to make a mistake’. So said Mitt Romney as he placed his arm around his running mate Paul Ryan’s shoulders, a sentiment which few would disagree with, especially after seeing him announce Ryan as ‘the next president of the United States’ mere moments before. Although Romney quickly finished his thought, claiming that the choice of Ryan would not turn out to be another gaffe, those who desire the President’s reelection will be overjoyed, for the selection of Ryan has put the election perfectly on Barack Obama’s terms.
When it comes to international diplomacy, there are few easier trips to make than that of an American politician to Britain. The script is essentially pre-written; the American is supposed to praise British history and culture, engage in relaxed and friendly chat with British political leaders, and claim that the ‘Special Relationship’ is as strong as ever. With the Olympics just starting, the American’s task is made even easier, as he could gain a bit of easy goodwill with some meaningless words of encouragement, speaking of how well the games are sure to go and working in a mention of the Jubilee for added points.
Gettysburg, the site of the bloodiest battle of the American civil war, claimed yet another casualty on Tuesday in the shape of Rick Santorum’s campaign for the Republican nomination. It was here, in his home state, that he chose to announce his withdrawal from the race. While it is quite remarkable that a man with such extreme views has come so far, he was still the second-placed candidate, and most likely alternative to Mitt Romney, should the frontrunner spectacularly implode. It seemed more likely that Newt Gingrich, who has been essentially out of the contest since February, would drop out first. But it was Santorum who terminated his campaign, citing his daughter’s illness as a reason.
While the health of his daughter surely will have contributed to his withdrawal, really Santorum’s decision to pull out of the race comes down to the consideration of three states: Pennsylvania, Iowa and Texas.