Florida worthless at showing a leading candidate

Florida Democrats should have saved themselves the trip to vote in the Florida presidential primary Jan. 29 and avoided the disappointment. Instead they should have just stayed home, written their candidate’s name down on a scrap of paper, thrown it in the garbage and then read a book.

The Democratic National Committee decided to penalize Florida this year and will not count the state’s delegates at the Democratic Convention. The DNC also decided not to count the delegates from Michigan, due to both states holding earlier primaries in some sort of desperate cry for national attention. We expected it from Florida, but Michigan? You’ve disappointed us.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Super Tuesday plays out for the Democratic hopefuls.

No one has seemed to be able to accurately predict anything thus far in the cycle. Barack Obama was a surprise in the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton was an upset in New Hampshire primaries despite polling, and even Clinton’s win in Vegas was tempered by the fact that through some incomprehensible caucus magic, Obama might still receive more Nevada delegates. Amidst all this uncertainty the exclusion of two states’ worth of delegates means that the Democratic nominee is actually still anyone’s guess – unless, of course, you guess John Edwards.

Before you start feeling sorry for Edwards, just remember that he chose to run against a black man and a white woman. Now ask yourself, what chance could he have possibly stood? We’re talking about liberals here.

Truly, though, it is a momentous occasion, as both Obama and Clinton have been happy to remind everyone, to have a slightly less homogeneous array of candidates to choose from. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still all upper-class Ivy-League elitists, but this time around Democrats get a single race and gender variant – tres progressive.

The effect, however, has been like playing cards with the Jokers in the deck – tres unpredictable.

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So, as it stands on the Democratic side, it’s a fairly even heat at the moment, with no clear favorite for the party’s nomination.

That’s not to say no one has an advantage.

Clinton seems to be receiving a bit more favoritism from the press. Her recent comment downplaying Martin Luther King Jr.’s role in the civil rights movement and questioning his capacity for action was potentially far more damning than even John Kerry’s slip of the tongue about education and soldiers in Iraq. Somehow Clinton’s comment, which Obama showed great restraint by only calling “unfortunate,” drew far less media attention than the moment of weakness to which some credited her win in New Hampshire.

Recent polls by ABC/Washington Post and CBS/New York Times both favor Clinton over Obama as the more “electable” candidate, but if there’s one thing that the polls have shown consistently this election cycle, it’s that they have absolutely no idea what’s about to happen. An educated guess at this point would have the same probability of predicting who wins the party nomination.

That won’t stop the media from filling up the airtime with polls, predictions and predilections. Just watch and listen with a wary eye and skeptical ear.

See, in Michigan, running as the only candidate on the ballot, Clinton received 55.4 percent of the vote. That’s just barely over half of the people that actually took the time to drive to their polling stations, knowing full well that the DNC was going to pay no attention whatsoever to who they voted for – and they voted on a one-name ballot. An unheard-of 39.9 percent of Michigan voters voted Uncommitted.

Clinton won Michigan, but what do these numbers mean for primary predictions? Absolutely nothing.

Still, if you want to follow the Florida Democratic primary, by all means do so. It ought to be entertaining, if nothing else. After all, at least this time around all the candidates’ names are listed. Just don’t be surprised when Clinton’s meaningless victory in an already highly supportive state receives a lot of media attention.

Perhaps Obama should have spent money campaigning in Florida for the news coverage.

Clinton very well could receive a boost from a victory in Florida, not in delegates but in public perception. The closer we get to the parties’ conventions, the more undecided voters are going to be, looking for the “leading” candidate to whom they will offer lemming-like support. Hearing about a Florida win may just give voters the impression that Clinton is on a roll.

With the race this close it’s difficult to make any assumptions, but given a bit of continued media support for Clinton, she could easily emerge as the favored candidate going into Super Tuesday.