Editorial: Eying the NC primary
Last week’s Super Tuesday results clarified matters on both sides of the presidential race. The Dems are in a tight one that could last until the late-August convention in Denver. Sen. John McCain is the man to beat on the Republican side of the fence, though Mike Huckabee held fast to a coalition that included every Southern state on Tuesday’s block, with the exception of Florida, which some don’t consider to be the South at all. He did take West Virginia, another state the South-ness of which is open for debate.
True sons and daughters of Dixie will tell you that West Virginia was the product of secession from the Confederate state of Virginia, making it something of an enigma during the Civil War.
But to much of the rest of the country, the entire South is enigmatic – politically speaking. And particularly for the Democrats, the South will figure prominently in this primary season, which again is something of an anomaly.
Every Democrat to win the White House since Kennedy has been a Southerner; if Hillary or Obama wins, the pattern will be broken. Neither can win the election itself without the support of the South. But the real race, the one which decides who gets to go to the dance, is generally in its last throes before those of us below the Mason-Dixon Line get our say.
Here in North Carolina, our May 6 primary is usually regarded much the same way as a parking ticket on a rental car; it just doesn’t carry that much weight.
Louisiana, Maryland and Virginia held their contests in the week following Super Tuesday, but still remaining in the Southern region are Mississippi, with 40 Democratic delegates in the offing; Kentucky, a slave-holding state that, like Maryland, remained loyal to the union, with 60; West Virginia, with 39; and big fish North Carolina, with 134 delegates, and Texas with 228.
The Democratic candidacy requires 2,025 delegates. As of this writing, Sen. Hillary Clinton holds a slight edge over Barack Obama; the South represents a pretty big pile of chips.
With which candidate will Southerners identify most? Clinton has history here as the former first lady of Arkansas, and there is a Gore connection with Tennessee, though Al Gore himself lost the state in 2000. But Obama’s numbers are strong in the South and they show no signs of abatement.
Still, the South cannot be counted on to vote as a block. Obama took Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina handily. Hillary won Arkansas and Tennessee.
Precisely because the candidates are so close, and because neither is a true product of the South, the little Democratic primary election we hold in North Carolina, with its suddenly not-inconsequential 134 delegates, will come into play.
Which means on May 6, we can cast a vote that actually matters.
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