Post-Super Tuesday thoughts

A few (again not necessarily original) observations on the results of the 24 state primaries and caucuses yesterday.

–Despite the desperate opposition of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, James Dobson and other right-wing stalwarts, the Republicans have a clear front-runner in John McCain. (It’s reassuring to know how much influence they don’t have, even among Republican voters.) The winner-take-all rules in certain states give him a big lead in delegates. Of course it helps him that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are splitting the non-McCain vote.

–Although I can’t help liking McCain (if it wasn’t such an insult in certain circles, I’d call him a decent man), I’m quite aware that on many of the social and economic issues I care about, he’s far to the right of me. I actually was moved last night when he referred, non-sarcastically, to “our friends” on the Democratic side. (Talk like that may be one reason why the Limbaughs and Coulters despise him so much.) But while I admired his willingness to criticize the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war during the first few years, I think he’s gone a little too soft on Bush and the Iraqi government since the “surge.” His talk of US forces staying in Iraq for another hundred years if necessary does not reassure me either.

–On the Democratic side, where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama split delegates about evenly, it’s still up for grabs. All delegates are apportioned according to which candidates carry which Congressional districts within states. So anyone who focuses simply on which candidate wins which states, and ignores the delegate count, is playing a fool’s game.

–In terms of the exit polling among Democratic voters, earlier patterns continued. Clinton was strongest among whites (although not overwhelmingly), Hispanics, women and low-income voters. Obama got his strongest support from younger voters, African-Americans and the more affluent.

–On the Democratic side, this could slog on for a few more months. (I’ll have my say in the Washington, DC, primary next week.) Obama’s message of hope and change has been powerful, but he can’t expect to ride to the nomination on a wave of emotion– as perhaps some of his supporters thought he could. He shouldn’t drop the inspirational stuff, but he ought to devote more time and detail to specific issues of concern to working people at the lower end of the economic scale. A greater effort to turn out young voters wouldn’t hurt either

–Hillary Clinton said something a few days ago that almost nobody picked up on, but which could come back to bite her if she wins the nomination.

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC’s “This Week,” she said: “I think there are a number of mechanisms” that are possible, including “going after people’s wages, automatic enrollment.”

Leaving aside the question of policy for a moment, a favorable statement about garnishing workers’ wages by a Democratic candidate is an absolute gift to the Republicans in a general election. (There are, of course, ways to achieve universal health care without garnishing wages.) The negative ads practically write themselves. McCain could ride this one all the way to the White House. And once again the Democrats would be the pious losers.