For the first time in modern American political history, there will be a nationwide primary on Tuesday, February 5. Many of 23 states that moved their primaries to earlier dates did so with the hopes of getting the kind of attention that the candidates and national media give to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Those states got their wish, and each of their proud traditions and strange customs will be cast on the national stage on Tuesday.
As part of a three installment series, here’s a look at two regions that will be contested on Super Tuesday – the Northeast and the Midwest – and how each candidate can expect to perform in each state.
Democrats in the Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York)
One of the most inaccurate descriptions of Hillary Clinton’s relationship with New York is that it’s is her “home turf.” Hillary launched her Senate bid from New York in part because a seat was being vacated, but more importantly because New York has always cast itself as the center of the nation. It’s the Empire State, the Big Apple and the Capital of the World. And so the state fit for Clinton, who was already a national figure.
By most reports, she’s done a good job of cultivating constituent relationships and building a strong statewide organization. On Super Tuesday, she’ll probably run well with Democrats in Upstate cities, who have tasted the bacon that she has brought home. She’ll also rack up big margins in the suburban counties surrounding the City, which are full of rooted New Yorkers who see her as more of a senator from their state than a national figure with a New York base.
But New York City is a different story. The City is the blending of America and is so saturated with media that primary voters are less likely to be loyal to Hillary and more likely to be tuned in to the details and rhythms of the campaign as a whole. It also won’t hurt Barack Obama that the city is heavily African-American. Obama might be wise to hold a rally in Madison Square Garden. If he can pack the University of South Carolina stadium, surely he can electrify MSG. Look for Obama to rack up millions of votes in the City and take nearly 40 percent there on his way to claiming about a third of New York’s 232 delegates.
On the other end of the Lincoln Tunnel, New Jersey will probably break decisively to Hillary. This is the state of the Carmello Soprano voter: white, upper middle-class, suburban moms. This demographic group is the backbone of Mark Penn’s strategy. And don’t forget that Carm once praised Hillary, telling Rosalie Aprile, “She stood by him and put up with the bullshit, and in the end, what did she do? She set up her own little thing.” Hillary should also do well with Hispanics in the inner suburbs, if only for the reason that these inner towns are fiercely loyal to everything New York.
On the other side of New York’s orbit, Connecticut will be a closer race. In the 2006 Democratic primary for Connecticut’s U.S. Senate seat, a Starbucks v. Dunkin Donuts dynamic emerged. Supporters of incumbent Joe Lieberman tended to be blue collar Democrats from places like the Naugatuck Valley who drank Dunkin Donuts coffee. Challenger Ned Lamont drew from wealthier Democrats on the Gold Coast who commuted to Manhattan and sipped Starbucks. It’s a very similar breakdown from what happened between Hillary and Obama in New Hampshire, and is likely to repeat itself on Super Tuesday.
Up in Massachusetts, if voters aren’t too hung over from Super Bowl celebrations or depressions, depending on the outcome, Super Tuesday will be a very close battle. Polls have Clinton leading by double-digits, but Obama has the endorsements of the Bay State’s governor and two U.S. senators. The state is also packed to the gills with the kind of people who usually support Obama: white, educated liberals. Clinton will probably win, but expect Obama to do surprisingly well.
Republicans in the Northeast (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York)
If Rudy Giuliani had ever faced Hillary in the 2000 Senate race, he probably would have lost the City. But make no mistake: the Big Apple is Rudy territory. This Brooklyn-born Italian-American rose through the ranks in the five boroughs to become the boss of the City and hero of local Republicans. If he had stayed in the 2008 presidential campaign, Rudy probably would have racked up huge margins on Staten Island and Long Island, and won most of Upstate.
John McCain might have picked off enough traditional Nelson Rockefeller Republicans to cut into Rudy’s margins in Westchester and surrounding burbs. But Rudy would have won the state and taken its 101 delegates in this winner take all contest. With Rudy out of the race, New York should be smooth sailing for McCain. Mitt Romney may have a decent shot Upstate if conservatives seek out an alternative, and a scenario is likely where Romney sweeps Upstate but McCain dominates everywhere south of the Catskills.
In New Jersey and Connecticut, McCain is likely to complete his sweep of the tri-state area. McCain was always positioned to do fairly well in these two states, which are home to the many suburban moderate Republicans like Rep. Chris Shays (CT-04). But these two states would have been competitive. Rudy would certainly have benefited from his high name recognition and moderate policies.
Many Republicans in the inner-burbs, especially in New Jersey, will always idolize America’s mayor for his handling of 9/11. There is nothing more iconic to many of these inner-suburban ethnic Republicans than Rudy throwing the first pitch at a Yankees game, wearing a FDNY hat with an American flag on the side. It’s not clear where these voters will go, but they’ll likely chose McCain, based solely on the fact that he’s a war hero.
Mitt Romney, for his part, will likely miss a huge opportunity in the tri-state region. Suburban Republicans in Summit County, N.J. and Fairfield County, Conn. once loved the idea of Romney: a CEO who promised results and success, had a stellar resume, looked good and talked authoritatively. But that’s all in past. As Romney became increasingly tangled in battles in the Heartland to prove his conservative purity, he stiffened up and took a defensive posture, which was off-settling for some people. He also advocated some positions that made many of his suburban supporters think twice.
Romney will likely concede the entire tri-state region and its 183 delegates and win Massachusetts’ 41 delegates without breaking a sweat. Any Republican primary voters in this region who wanted some visits from the candidates, maybe a little an appearance at a post-Super Bowl celebration in Boston in New York, will likely not get any. The Northeast will be radio silent. It’s a stunning fact considering there are three moderate Republicans who once lead the polls, two of which were from the region.
Midwest for Democrats (Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota)
The Super Tuesday states in the region know as the “the Midwest” should really be divided into two different subsets. The first is the breadbasket states of Kansas, North Dakota and Minnesota. And the second group is Illinois and Missouri, which are distinctly Midwestern in the sense that they fall on the fault line between the Rust Belt and Dixie. Those two states are also home to the Cubs and Cardinals, and what is more Midwestern than a series between those two franchises?
Obama is a White Sox fan, which is heresy in many quarters of Illinois, but he’s still wildly popular with state Democrats and has a stronger bond with the base than Hillary does in New York. Obama will sweep the Chicago area, which accounts over half of the state’s Democratic primary voters, from the old Comiskey on the South Side to Wrigley on the North Side. But Chicago is also Hillary’s place of birth, and while it probably won’t count for much, she may find some voters in the suburbs and pull together 20 to 25 percent statewide.
It’ll also be interesting to see how Obama performs downstate, which Salon’s Edward McClelland has noted has a “history of working out racial questions for the rest of the country.” The region produced the two men most responsible for ending slavery in Abraham Lincoln and U. S. Grant. But one hundred years after the Civil War, racial strife tore apart the town of Cairo, and in 2004, Obama ran second in the Democratic primary downstate.
Across the mighty Mississippi from Cairo is Missouri, another state that has always been stuck between North and South. The northern part of the state was settled by Virginians and is known as Little Dixie. John Edwards might have found support here, but with the former North Carolina senator out of the race, Hillary has a distinct advantage. Obama will be buoyed by support in St. Louis and Kansas City, and he’ll do well with the Democrats and independents who listen to Sen. Claire McCaskill’s argument that he has purple-state appeal. An Obama victory is a long shot, but he could end up taking nearly half the state’s 72 delegates.
Minnesota will also award 72 delegates, but will do so in complicated caucus system that should favor Obama’s superior ground game. Obama’s style of campaigning will also probably play well in this state that is proud of its tradition of being “Minnesota nice” and often rewards candidates who run sunny campaigns. Edwards could have had an opening here, as Minnesota’s Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party has been known to be kind to populist candidates.
On Minnesota’s western border is the town of Fargo, N.D., where Democratic voters will also be caucusing. National Geographic recently described North Dakota as an “empty prairie… littered with dead towns.” With only13 delegates, it’s anybody’s guess who will win. Another state with few Democrats that appears to be up for grabs in Kansas. But with most leading Kansas Democrats endorsing Obama, the Illinois senator might have the upper hand. It also won’t hurt that is mom is from Kansas.
Republicans in the Midwest (Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota)
It’s unclear who is leading the contest for North Dakota’s 25 delegates in the Republican race. Romney won a straw poll, but the state is also home to many older and more mainline Republicans who may support McCain. Neighboring Minnesota and its 40 delegates will be the focus of much more time and attention. McCain is the heavy favorite in Minnesota and Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been singing his praises there from the very beginning.
But the state also has a very vocal and active pro-life community, and Mike Huckabee could do surprisingly well. It’ll be interesting to see how Romney stacks up against McCain in the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul, which are the fastest-growing areas in the state and are home to many of the new Republicans who are changing the electorate of this once heavily Democratic state.
Romney has a better shot in Missouri, er, “Missour-ah” to use local GOP dialect. The state will live up to its reputation as a fierce battleground and many of the rifts in the state GOP that were apparent during the 2006 battle over a stem-cell ballot initiative will be exposed. Moderates such as former Sen. John Danforth, who is backing McCain, supported the initiative. But many conservatives staunchly opposed it. Former Sen. Jim Talent, who could never really articulate a clear position on the issue, is a Romney ally, as is the Blunt family. If the “Rally to Romney” movement takes hold in here, he could edge McCain and take Missouri’s 58 delegates in this winner take-all contest. A repeat of Florida, where Huckabee stripped Romney of significant conservatives support, could happen.
Romney also needs to have a strong showing in Illinois, which awards 70 delegates by district. McCain is the favorite here, but former Speaker Dennis Hastert is doing all he can to knock down the maverick senator whom he has derided as an “unreliable” vote for the GOP. McCain is likely to take Chicago and the burbs, but it’ll be interesting to see who wins downstate. The southern part of the state might as well be in Dixie, which is also hosting a slew of elections on Super Tuesday.