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Presidential prediction UPDATE: McCain and Obama in tight race

The lone answer from Tuesday's Presidential primary in Pennsylvania is that there is not yet an answer for who will be the Democratic Party's nominee for the nation's highest office. A 10-point win in the Keystone State won Hillary Clinton at least two more weeks of mud-slinging campaigning with Barack Obama. But by most accounts, it may be too little, too late.

Clinton won Pennsylvania, where she once held a 20-point lead in the polls, despite Obama greatly outspending the former first lady. But she's unlikely to find such success as the campaign moves here to North Carolina, where Obama has picked up several key endorsements, and Indiana (Obama has not lost a primary in a state that borders his home Illinois). But what's more is that the Clinton campaign is still struggling financially. The Pennsylvania win could provide a boost, but likely not enough to overcome the millions Obama has in the bank.

In late February I made a prediction of how I believe the Presidential race will end in November. At that time I reserved the right to update my prophecy that Republican John McCain (and his running mate and former foe Mike Huckabee) would win 53% of the popular vote and 290 electoral votes against Clinton and an undecided running mate from the South or the Midwest. I also predicted Clinton would get the nomination after wooing Superdelegates following a tight primary season, polarizing her party and the nation.

So here's the update:

Obviously, McCain is still the presumptive Republican nominee. I still think he'll go with Huckabee for Vice President to help court conservatives and win votes in the South. But I no longer think Clinton will be able to stay close enough in the delegate count to get the nomination.

There are supposedly 300 Superdelegates uncommitted to either Democratic candidate. According to CNN and the Associated Press, Obama leads the overall delegate count by about 140. He also has about 500,000 more popular votes. He also has a commanding lead in polling here in the Tar Heel State for the May 6 primary. In fact, he feels so comfortable that he has decided not to debate Clinton here, which is probably a smart decision after their latest debate in Pennsylvania in which Obama drew less than stellar reviews.

Having conceded Pennsylvania once the polls opened there Tuesday, Obama moved on to Indiana, where the polls show a statistical dead heat for the vote also on May 6, with perhaps a slight edge to the Illinois Senator. And with North Carolina not a concern to him, expect Obama to spend the bulk of his money in the Hoosier State. If he can pull out big wins in both states, that's pretty much it. Clinton's campaign claims it raised $2.5 million in the first three hours after the news networks declared her the winner in Pennsylvania, and she asked her supporters Tuesday night for anything from five-dollar donations on up. But it's still a drop in the bucket compared to the Obama war chest. And if Obama can win those primaries, Clinton will see the money, and thus her chances of continuing in the race, dry up.

The other implication of strong Obama showings May 6 is momentum. Superdelegates will have to take note, even though Clinton has had stronger showings in battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, which could mean a stronger showing against McCain in the fall. If Obama can extend his delegate lead enough, the remaining Superdelegates are irrelevant. But even without an insurmountable delegate lead, surely enough of those party big-wigs will be convinced to jump on the Obama bandwagon and make him the Democratic nominee.

So let's assume Obama gets the nod. Who will he pick as a running mate? Again, let's suppose he's running against a McCain-Huckabee ticket. What does Obama need? First and foremost he needs someone with foreign affairs experience. McCain far overshadows him on that front without a doubt. Huckabee is key with conservative, white, southern voters. Obama will counter by carrying southern liberals and blacks. That means John Edwards is unneeded (I could see Clinton picking him if she gets the nomination, though today, big names who supported Edwards early in the campaign are throwing their support to Obama). The Republicans are sure to make immigration a big issue in the fall, which could alienate the growing Latin vote. So why not court them to the Democratic side? Ladies and gentlemen, the Democratic VP nominee will be New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who happens to be Hispanic, a former UN ambassador and the one-time Secretary of Energy (both under Bill Clinton).

McCain-Huckabee vs. Obama-Richardson is an interesting contest. Old white guys vs. ethnic minorities. Welcome to the 21st century of American politics. So how does it shake out? While McCain wins on experience and substance, Obama will carry debates with his charisma, optimistic outlook and talk of change. The debate between Huckabee and Richardson will be substantively strong and savvy, if boring.

At this point, I think it comes down to a very close contest. Let's say 51.5-48.5%, if not closer, in the popular vote. In the electoral vote, the winner wins 275-263. So who is the winner? I could go either way, but I think the protracted primary battle will hurt either Democratic candidate. The negative campaigning by Obama and Clinton and has opened plenty of wounds. Meanwhile, McCain is sitting back, taking notes and raising money. Clinton's camp will have given him all the ammunition he needs to attack Obama. So I'll maintain my prediction of McCain as the winner. But I'll hedge the bet and say Obama could raise enough money to counter whatever McCain throws at him and could pull it out. And I still reserve the right to update my predictions again.

For now, sit back and relax and enjoy the flood of campaign ads on TV and radio the next couple of weeks. You won't be able to avoid them.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo

The Race

For the record, I am a Democratic Party member who will gladly support either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I am not sure when you wrote your blog, but I believe that due to the recent comments by Rev. Wright the Democratic race for President is more fluid than any of us imagined it might be. I still think this race is Obama's to lose, but I now think it is conceivable that he might lose it especially if Clinton was to win North Carolina. Now about the "old white guys" you mentioned in your blog. Point of fact is that Richardson is older than Huckabee. Also, I think Obama will need to choose a woman since H. Clinton will need to choose a minority person. An interesting choice would be one of the female governors who have endorsed him. If he doesn't go in that direction, it would not surprise me if he chose Chris Dodd or Joe Biden. I think Clinton would have chosen Richardson had he not endorsed Obama. She may look toward Harold Ford (which will cause problems as he does seem homophobic) or someone from Ohio or Florida. I think McCain will choose Romney as it will open up the money pool. Huckabee does not help with that. Romney is also acceptable to the religious right. The other possible choice would be Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Finally, if Obama is the nominee, I do not think it will be close and I am sad to write that. I am afraid that the elitist label is beginning to stick. I also think McCain will do better in the debates as he is quick on his feet. Obama has not generally well in the debates due to his professoral attitude. I still think a Clinton-Obama ticket would be the strongest ticket that the Democrats could field.

Great article

Loved finding this blog and your predictions. They make tons of sense, and I really hope it all comes to pass as you say. Keep up the good political analysis. You might be a political news commentator one day!!!

You have great insight

You predicted McCain would win - he did. I agree, he will choose Huckabee as VP - McCain is trying to establish a bond with the middle class American and appeal to voters that Republicans have not been able to secure since Reagan. Huckabee can reach the middle-class and connect with voters; the economy needs a common sense approach, and Huckabee can provide that. He can also shore up the social conservatives and the south. I still think Hillary may be able to pull off the nomination if she can win Indiana with any kind of margin. Why? The bad economy has hit the middle class hard, and Hillary is perceived as the best Democrat to address that.

McCain/Huckabee '08 They have the whole package!!

Agree, that McCain/Huckabee will slam-dunk the democrats! These two men have proven that integrity, character, and gutsy determination matter. Together, they can grab back into the fold the base of the Republican Party and pull in some unexpecteds from both sides. They actually LIKE each other, both have a great sense of humor and they completely balance each other's credentials! It would make ALL the Republicans happy and rally us to the polls.