Politics & Policy

The Road Ahead

Prospects for the remaining February primaries.

With Super Tuesday come and gone, race-watchers now find themselves paying attention to states that have had little or no influence in previous cycles. Almost every veteran campaign correspondent has a tale of reporting from an Iowa cornfield or collecting B-roll footage of boarded-up storefronts in Manchester, but iconic campaign trail legends associated with Washington State, Maryland, or Wisconsin are rarer than hen’s teeth.

In many of these states, there have been no recent polls, but that is likely to change in the coming days. For the Republicans, here’s a sense of what to expect from here on out.

February 9:

Louisiana: McCain has the pledged support of 41 of the 47 delegates through the caucus last month. If Romney or Huckabee were to get more than 50 percent of the vote, they would get 20 delegates, and McCain’s total would be no more than 27.

Washington State: There is a perfectly bizarre arrangement here. Nineteen of the state’s delegates are elected by the primary; 18 are selected by a caucus. The caucus is February 9, while the primary is February 19. At the caucus, precinct caucus-goers choose delegates to the county conventions, who in turn choose delegates to the state convention, which is held May 30. Officially, the caucus delegates who attend the Republican National Convention are officially “Unpledged,” but as in Maine, these delegates have to vote for somebody.

On primary day, candidates get one delegate for each congressional district they win (there are nine total) and ten delegates are allocated proportionally to presidential contenders based on the statewide vote. A 20 percent threshold is required in order to get any of the at-large delegates.

Survey USA puts McCain up, 40 percent to Romney’s 26 percent and Huckabee’s 17 percent. But note Romney’s past success in western caucus states.

Kansas: Thirty-six of Kansas’ 39 delegates are allocated during their caucuses. Each congressional district is worth three delegates, and the statewide winner, presuming he carries at least two districts, will get 24 total. Only one poll has occurred here in the last year, way back in May, when Research 2000 found Romney at 17, McCain at 13. There have been no recent polls in Kansas.

Sam Brownback is McCain’s highest-profile surrogate here, but he also is supported by RNC member Steve Cloud and Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (thus, McCain is backed by both the state’s most prominent pro-life and pro-choice lawmakers). Former senator Bob Dole has not yet endorsed McCain, but objected to some of Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of him.

Sen. Pat Roberts is not endorsing McCain, and has said that while he likes his colleague from Arizona, he’s staying out of the presidential primary.

February 12:

Virginia: A fantastically simple primary, with 63 winner-take-all delegates — a major prizes. It’s an interesting state, in that the northern part of the state, less conservative, is booming. (The Democrats will face off on the same day, and in all likelihood, it will be an all-out brawl between Hillary and Obama, which may limit the independent turnout in the state’s open primary.)

The Washington Post commissioned a poll last October that had Giuliani leading the state (with 34 percent) and Thompson performing strong (20 percent). McCain was at 20 percent, Romney at 9 percent. But now, retiring Republican Senator John Warner said Wednesday, “John has locked it up.”

In Florida and Super Tuesday states, veterans were a key demographic in McCain’s victories. The census bureau puts 799,081 veterans in Virginia as of 2006, the eighth most in the country. (Of the states with more –California, Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, McCain has won the Republican primary in all states that have voted thus far.)

Maryland: (37 delegates) In contrast with Virginia, Maryland has far less straightforward rules. For each of eight congressional districts a candidate wins, he gets three delegates, and an additional 13 go to the statewide winner.

The Washington Post poll from October had McCain at 18 percent, Romney at 10 percent, Huckabee at 2 percent. The numbers will look differently now, of course. This, too, will be another furious battleground between Hillary Clinton (with support from the professional Democratic class in the D.C. suburbs) and Barack Obama (with support from blacks in Baltimore, and young voters at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins). The Republican race will probably be an afterthought in local coverage.

The District of Columbia: The capital district’s 19 delegates all go to the caucus winner. Considering how both candidates have been touting themselves as “Washington outsiders” who can “change Washington,” it’s likely that the winner won’t be bragging about this one.

February 18:

Wisconsin will host the last Republican primary contest in February, with 40 delegates at stake — and it could be one of the more interesting ones. As in several other states, a candidate gets three delegates for each congressional district he wins (eight districts delivering 24 delegates), with 16 going to the statewide winner.

With the collapse of four-term former Governor Tommy Thompson’s presidential campaign, many of the state’s big name endorsements are now up for grabs. (Thompson endorsed McCain Wednesday) Many of the old guard of Thompson’s administration, such as his right-hand man Jim Klauser, are bundlers for Romney.

The only open endorsement from the state’s congressional delegation came from Rep. Tom Petri of Fond du Lac, who has been backing Romney since August 2007. Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan are currently neutral, as are the most prominent state legislators.

Wisconsin politics watchers note that in the state’s three media markets, there are five major local talk-radio hosts: Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling, and Jeff Wagner out of Milwaukee; Vicki McKenna in Madison; and Jerry Bader in Green Bay. Both Sykes and Wagner are former Rudy supporters. Sykes has stated on air he will vote for Romney in the primary, but support McCain if the nominee. Wagner, a former US Attorney who worked cases with Giuliani in the Justice Department, has joined him in backing McCain. Mark Belling; a rotating fill-in host for Limbaugh, has been critical of McCain.

Super Tuesday has come and gone — and all too soon, political reporters find themselves packing for a whole new set of states that no one expected to be prominent players in the 2008 primary season — including Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Texas in March. Before the year is out, Michael Barone may not be the only politico to have visited every congressional district in the nation.

– Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot blog on NRO.

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