Monday, May 19, 2008

Getting weird in Nebraska

You may not have noticed it, but Nebraska held a Democratic primary last Tuesday, the same day that West Virginians held theirs. Obama beat Clinton in Nebraska 49-47, with Mike Gravel (who this week is attending the Libertarian convention in Denver with hopes of becoming that party's nominee) picking up the remaining 4%.

Why didn't this get much press? Because it literally meant nothing. Nebraska assigned its pledged delegates during its caucus on February 9th -- Obama beat Clinton 68-32 in that contest. Last week's Nebraska primary was merely an advisory primary, offering suggestions to the state's superdelegates. Despite having almost no meaning, roughly 90,000 Nebraskans participated in it. (Incidentally, that's about 20,000 more Nebraskans than participated in the state's Democratic primary in 2004, which actually did determine delegate shares.)

The deeper we get into this nomination process, the weirder it looks. Yet it almost develops its own self-justifying logic. You begin to say, "Of course it makes sense for a state to hold a non-binding primary three months after its caucus! Duh!"


Anonymous said...

To me, the interesting point is if you expand the Democratic Party electorate, Obama loses his huge advantage in Nebraska.

As I've been saying, it's the low-level Democratic activists who prefer Obama. The actual Democratic voters slightly prefer Clinton. And the superdelegates are just going along for the ride.

Seth Masket said...

It is interesting, although it's not a perfect comparison since the primary occurred three months after the caucus, and Obama got a lot tougher press in that period (as the frontrunner) than he did previously.

A better comparison is Texas, with a simultaneous primary and caucus, and Obama, of course, won the caucus and lost the primary.

One might still note that Obama has won the majority of primaries thus far. Still, point taken.

Anonymous said...

On Nebraska: Obama was actually trailing in national polls when Nebraska caucused and is now leading in them, despite Rev. Wright and all that. So the two point win he eked out there is really unimpressive (who knew that the Appalachians extended so far west?) and strongly suggests that his caucus wins were NOT representative of opinion in those states at the time. But we knew that. Caucuses have been very very good to Enik and his candidate and they were the rules, but that's about all one can say for them.

As to WHY Nebraskans would bother to vote in a meaningless primary (bracketing the rationality of voting in ANY election), this wasn't a Presidential Primary only deal. It was also the Nebraska primary for everything else. On the Democratic side there was a competitive Senate race for example (Kleb vs. Raimondo) in which both sides ran ads. So I think people were motivated by the other contests and took the opportunity to weigh in on the Presidential contest without having to sit in a room at an appointed hour for two hours. What a concept.

Seth Masket said...

Good point about the down-ballot races, Anonymous. That accounts for a great deal.