Depending on which side you were on, Tuesday's presidential primaries prompted either a big sigh of relief or a sharp smack to the forehead. Come to think of it, no matter which side you're on, they could have elicited both, maybe at the same time.
For Republicans the long slog to the nomination is finally over, with Arizona Senator John McCain now the presumptive nominee. Despite lingering unease from some in the party's conservative base over McCain's coronation — and even calls from conservative radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh for Republicans to vote for Senator Hillary Clinton in protest — the 71-year-old fighter was formally embraced by the party faithful on Wednesday (March 5), topped by a visit to the White House for President Bush's endorsement.
The Democrats, on the other hand, are basically back to square one. With Clinton's victories in Ohio and Texas, the predictions of her imminent demise have been put on mothballs once again, and the contest with Senator Barack Obama appears on track to continue right up until the August Democratic convention in Denver. While McCain gets to go back to his job in the Senate and continue lobbing criticism at the dueling Democrats for the next five months, Obama and Clinton face a spring and early summer of primaries and caucuses with the knowledge that even a run of the table by either would not necessarily guarantee the nomination.
Most of the major contests have already been decided. With just a few big prizes still up for grabs, here are some answers to the most pressing questions:
What does the rest of the primary schedule look like?
This Saturday brings a caucus in Wyoming with 18 delegates at stake. That will be followed by a primary in Mississippi on March 11 (40 delegates); the last big primary in Pennsylvania on April 22 (188); contests in Indiana (84) and North Carolina on May 6 (134); West Virginia on May 13 (39); Kentucky (60) and Oregon on May 20 (65); Montana (24) and South Dakota on June 3 (23); and the final showdown on June 7, the Puerto Rico caucus (63).
Can Clinton still win the nomination outright?
The math does not favor the New York senator. With only 661 pledged delegates still up for grabs, Clinton needs to win every remaining contest with 70 percent of the vote just to stay competitive. With Tuesday's wins, she remains more than 100 pledged delegates behind Obama, and even adding in her 40-odd vote lead among superdelegates, she's still 86 delegates behind. Plus, superdelegates can change their minds at any point up until the convention. ABC reported that while Clinton may never overtake Obama's delegate lead, she's still counting on superdelegate support to put her over the top.
Is a possible Clinton-Obama ticket in the cards?
Clinton hinted on Wednesday that she would consider being part of a "dream team" with bitter rival Obama. "That may be where this is headed," she told the CBS "Early Show" Wednesday morning. "But, of course, we have to decide who is on the top of ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me." It's not the first time Clinton has suggested the dynamic duo — a topic the Obama campaign has largely avoided — but given how badly each candidate wants the top job, the battle for billing could be a nasty one. It would not, however, be the first time primary rivals had paired up. Among the famous teams are Democrats John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and Republicans Ronald Reagan and George Bush, notable because the names at the top became party icons, and the second-in-command's both went on to serve as president.
What's going to happen with the Florida and Michigan votes that have not been counted because the states were penalized for moving up their primaries?
Though it's highly unlikely, there has been talk of possible "do-overs" in both states: re-votes that would greatly increase Clinton's chances of victory, but in the case of Florida, that would cost taxpayers as much as $18 million. Some Michigan party leaders have suggested privately funding a caucus to decide the votes — a format that favors Obama's more grassroots base — since a new primary could cost up to $10 million. It's also unlikely that the millions of votes from two of the most populous states in the nation would be tossed out, so another scenario being floated is that the states will be able to send delegates, but that those delegates would be instructed by the Democratic National Committee to cast their lots with whoever is the leader in delegates coming into the convention. While even the most optimistic Clinton campaign math doesn't get her to the magic 2,025 number if she wins the upcoming primaries, the addition of the Michigan and Florida votes could give Clinton the final boost she'd need.
Who is on the shortlist for McCain's vice president?
Well, despite hanging around in the race way longer than seemed necessary, possibly hoping for a VP slot, it's not likely to be former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Among the names being tossed around, according to the New York Times: Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Others include former Ohio Congressman Rob Portman, whose experience as Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget could give McCain some help with his admittedly spotty experience with financial matters during this time of recession and economic downturn. The choice is particularly important for McCain, who would take office at 72 if he wins, making him the oldest president ever elected.
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