Inside Washington's Headlines

by Ken Feltman

Radnor Inc.

February 2008


Legislative insight

Political intelligence










Ken Feltman is Chairman of Radnor Inc., a political consulting and legislative relations firm in Washington, D.C. He is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists.




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Super Tuesday Special

Senior Republican officials were telephoning each other during the night. They were deciding which of them should go to Mitt Romney to tell him that he should quit his campaign. When delivered, that message will have two parts. First, Romney will be told that he ran a good race and can expect consideration for appointive office or endorsement in future elective efforts. Then he will get the negative message: If Romney does not withdraw for "the good of the party," he can expect no help in the future, and can probably expect opposition.

Romney expects the visit and knows that the GOP officials have no direct power to influence future appointments or endorsements. But he will get the message that he will be a pariah within the party if he does not drop out.

While Romney disappointed yesterday, Mike Huckabee did better than expected. But he seems to have come to the end of states where he can grab large blocks of delegates. The GOP officials have never viewed Huckabee as the likely nominee. They will suggest that he suspend his campaign but - fearing a backlash from the religious right - will not demand or attempt to intimidate Huckabee.

Should Romney quit, Huckabee may stay in to test whether Romney's supporters will come his way. Exit polls do not seem to suggest that Romney voters will switch to Huckabee (or that Huckabee supporters will move in large numbers to Romney should Huckabee quit but Romney stay in).

Giuliani's efforts benefit McCain

John McCain became the beneficiary of Rudy Giuliani's work in the northeast during the summer. Giuliani insured that the big states in his region would keep a winner-take-all format. As Giuliani supporters drifted away while Giuliani ignored the contests in the early states, McCain rose in the polls. Ultimately, buoyed by former Giuliani supporters, McCain swept the northeast and gathered a rich treasure of winner-take-all delegates.

It is hard to figure out how Romney or Huckabee can stop McCain. Only a major blunder by McCain can sidetrack the Straight Talk Express.

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The Clinton gambit of calling attention to Barack Obama's race seemed to backfire. The major result seemed to be a more solid performance by Obama among African-American voters. Hillary Clinton lost support among women but retained the support of enough women to win several key states. One telling note: Clinton was pleasantly pleased with her Tuesday performance.

Obama continued to out-organize Clinton in caucus states, which he dominated. Clinton has the superior ground game in primary states. Her voter turn-out operation is battle-tested and brought out droves of voters for her, turning around some states. She benefits from an experienced team that worked for Howard Dean and John Kerry in 2004.

Ground game favors Clinton but...

Obama's new problem is that although he is expected to do well in the next few primaries, he then runs into unfavorable territory. Clinton's new problem is that an increasing number of voters are apprehensive about her tactics and about the prospect of Bill Clinton roaming around the White House with nothing to do but make mischief.

Although many early headlines gave Clinton the Super Tuesday victory, it appears that Obama is closing the delegate gap and may actually take the lead in delegates by the end of counting under the Democrat's confusing delegate-selection process. In reality, Clinton has the advantage if she can survive the next several primaries. But the Democratic race is now a toss-up.

The momentum favors Obama. The ground-game favors Clinton. The money favors Obama. In politics, most pros bet on momentum and money.

But no one is counting out Clinton. The Clintons have a way of winning in the end.

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