TNR Super Tuesday Primer

Sick of the meaninglessness of its traditional June primary, Alabama was one of the first states to move its 2008 primary forward to February 5. Unfortunately, many of the larger states it was trying to leapfrog followed suit, and it finds itself in their shadows once again. This is unfortunate, since it is hosting two competitive races: Multiple candidates in both parties have good shots at victory.

Delegates: Democrats, 60; Republican, 48.

Formats: Both parties host open primaries. The Democrats distribute their delegates proportionally to candidates receiving at least 15 percent of the vote. On the Republican side, it is winner-take-all at the district level and proportional at the state.

Recent Polls: A Rasmussen Poll from January 25 shows Clinton leading Obama 43 to 28, while John McCain and Mike Huckabee were tied at 27, with Mitt Romney trailing at 15. A poll taken earlier in the month by the Press Register and the University of South Alabama shows Clinton leading Obama only 31 to 28, with 33 percent undecided. It also shows Huckabee leading McCain and Romney 25-22-8, with 29 percent undecided.

Democratic Fundraising: Hillary Clinton: $218,151; Barack Obama: $193,230

Republican Fundraising: Mitt Romney: $219,600; John McCain: $126,275; Mike Huckabee: $7,600

Endorsements: The political establishment has kept pretty quiet: The governor, both senators, and the state’s largest newspaper, The Birmingham News, have not yet endorsed. Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of the Alabama Democratic Caucus, a powerful African-American organization, while former state GOP chairman Winton Blount III endorsed John McCain.

Number of Offices: Obama, 4; Clinton, 2; McCain, 2.

Demographics: Alabama is over a quarter black: If South Carolina is any indication, this is good news for Barack Obama. No polls have been taken since his victory there, but Mitchell Brown, a political scientist at Auburn University, notes that voters have been abandoning Clinton without flocking to Obama--Clinton’s numbers have dropped, Obama’s have remained stagnant, and the number of undecided voters has increased. With Edwards out of the race, these voters will have no choice but to go to Obama, unless they decide to return to Clinton. Alabama is primarily Baptist and Methodist--which goes a long way towards describing Huckabee’s buoyancy in the state (and also, possibly, Romney’s troubles). McCain was showing momentum in polling, however, even before his South Carolina and Florida victories. Whichever Republican wins the nomination will be able to count on the state’s support when they return for the general election: The state gave Bush 62 percent of its vote in 2004.

Update (2/1): A pair of new polls show Obama leading, while a third, which does not include an "undecided" option, has he and Hillary tied with 47 percent each. See here. One poll showed Obama leading 68 to 20 among black voters, which is an excellent sign given the state's large African-American population.


Get a rundown of other states at play at TNR's Super Tuesday Primer, updated with new states every day leading up to February 5.