early and often

Live From the Imperial City: Kurt Andersen on Super Tuesday

Barack Obama

Obama after voting yesterday in Chicago.Photo: AFP/Getty Images

I just came home from my neighborhood polling place in Brooklyn with my daughter, who turned 18 two weeks ago. She was excited to be voting for the first time — and for the first time in a very long while, I was excited to be voting as well. (Full disclosure: Obama.)

There hasn’t been an election this interesting in my sentient lifetime, and I’ve never followed a campaign as closely. Maybe it’s the same for you. I’ll be back online by 8:30 or so to blog in real time — about the election results, about the coverage of the election results, about my excitements and disappointments as the night grinds on. The polls in California don’t close until eleven eastern time, so I expect I’ll be jabbering here until midnight EST or later.

So let me quote Margot Channing: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

8:28 p.m.: No surprises yet … apart from (1) Huckabee running ahead of McCain in Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri, and (2) Wolf Blitzer spending a full minute trying to name each of the different shades of red on CNN’s Republican pie chart.

By the way, in the unlikely event that McCain is denied the nomination, that will mean we’ll never have a president from the nameless generation between the Greatest and the Boomers.

9:18 p.m.: In New York (according to the CNN exit polling), Clinton is beating Obama among white women by two-to-one. Duh. But if the Democratic party apparatchiks — the “superdelegates” — end up choosing the nominee in the end, as seems highly possible, they’ll have to take a long hard look at Obama’s two-to-one strength among young voters: According to the exit polling (as reported by Fox News), he is beating Clinton 62 percent to 31 percent among the young. To me, November-electability-wise, that youth appeal looks more alluring, I think.

9:43 p.m.: Such a weird schizophrenia to Clinton’s wins: New Jersey and New York, sure … and Oklahoma and Tennessee?

9:52 p.m.: As I watch (the impressive) John King on CNN analyze Democratic voting patterns in Massachusetts and New Jersey, both of which Clinton has won, and hear him describe how she won by running strongly in traditional white working-class areas, I can’t help but wonder: To what extent is her strength in those areas a function of vestigial and/or ambient, um, er, racism?

9:59 p.m.: I like Keith Olbermann fine. But how 21st century and post-objectivity it is that the de facto NBC News network coverage of the election — on MSNBC — is co-anchored by a make-no-bones-about-it anti-Republican.

10:09 p.m.: Interesting that Obama is winning Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Alaska … It seems as if where there aren’t really any black people, white Democrats are especially jazzed about voting for a black person.

10:22 p.m.: Enough already with the statistical tautology (per CBS News just now) that Democrats who most value “change” voted for Obama and those who most value “experience” voted for Clinton. And people who most value “Mormonism” no doubt voted overwhelmingly for Romney.

10:57 p.m.: I like the Huckabee comeback. “Why?” my daughter just asked. “He doesn’t believe in evolution!” Well, I don’t want him to be president, Lord knows. But as a writer (fresh plot twist), as a human (the replicant Romney beaten by a real person), and as a non-Republican (no GOP consensus), his victories please me.

11:22 p.m.: In Califorinia (per CNN), Obama is winning among whites, but Clinton’s two-to-one margin among Latinos will (according to not-yet-reported exit polls, I’m told) give her a 5 percent popular-vote victory in the state.

11:39 p.m.: Five candidates, five victory speeches. So it looks like kind of a draw between Clinton and Obama. And a front-runner for the Republicans, as McCain just called himself, but no sure thing, quite. The ongoing inconclusiveness of the races in both parties begins to seem like reflection of the country’s general Balkanization: Both the Democrats and the Republicans seem ornery, resistant to forming a consensus. Maybe we’ve gotten so used to disagreeing that we now indulge the impulse, and resist the “cascade” phenomenon, even when the disagreements are — ultimately, substantively — relatively slight. Or maybe especially then.

Midnight: Shrewd (new?) construction by Obama in his speech: referring not simply to Clinton’s (and McCain’s) “experience” but to their “experience in Washington.”

1 a.m.: Now that they’ve called California for Clinton (as I suggested, ahem, an hour and a half ago) and Missouri for Obama, meaning that the two Democratic candidates have split tonight’s thousand delegates almost exactly 50-50, it’s time to look forward.

Next Tuesday, three Democratic primaries take place — in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., where 119 delegates are at stake. And Obama looks to win all three. The next primary, Wisconsin’s, comes a week after that; Obama looks strong there. And then two weeks after that, on March 4, comes another Super Tuesday: four primaries — Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont — with 265 delegates elected.

But Clinton’s and Obama’s delegate counts will still be more or less evenly split. Then Pennsylvania in late April, Indiana and North Carolina in May … and, uhhh, the convention. In other words, in all likelihood, the first meaningful political convention in the lifetimes of most Americans.

Such agita.

But again, if I’m a superdelegate this morning, I’d look at Clinton’s big wins — New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California — and see that her strong states will go Democratic in November in any case. And I’d look at Obama’s strength in important swing states like Colorado and Missouri and Minnesota. And see his strength among young people, and among the swing voters who elected Bill Clinton — white men — and say, “Jeez, maybe we’d better nominate Obama.”

But that’s just me.

Good night.

Live From the Imperial City: Kurt Andersen on Super Tuesday