So-- we are now down to (not counting Guam this coming Saturday [3 May]) a mere 8 "determinative" Presidential Primaries ("determinative" because these will actually determine the pledges of National Convention delegates; 2 other Presidential Primaries still on the schedule- Nebraska on 13 May and Idaho on 27 May- are Advisory Presidential Preference "beauty contests" in States that already began their Caucus/Convention procedures back in early February). When it comes to pledged delegates, 404 (again, not counting Guam's mere 4 "delegate votes" [since that island will be sending 8 actual delegates, each casting 1/2 vote, to the Convention in Denver])- a little over 12% of the total non-"superdelegates"- are left to be distributed; and, once Indiana and North Carolina vote next Tuesday (6 May), but 217 (under 7% of the total pledged delegates) will thereafter remain.
Thus, it can clearly be seen that, although Pennsylvania's Primary a little over a week ago was the largest bloc of Democratic pledged delegates- 158- in a single State in this, the final weeks of the Presidential Primary/Caucus "season", Tuesday 6 May- with 187 pledged delegates up for grabs in two States- is the biggest "payday" left on the Democratic Party side as we are just about to round the final turn enter the "home stretch" of Presidential Primaries in this particular "horse race".
We are, therefore, soon coming to a point where we will be less in the realm of actual delegate counting (assuming, as has been assumed for weeks now, that neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Obama will have the necessary 2,025 to clinch the nomination outright once all the Presidential Primaries have come to an end on 3 June) and, instead, more in the arena of "who looks more like a winner"-- depending, of course, on what actually happens on the 6th itself.
For, if either Democratic presidential contender should win the Presidential Primaries in both States next Tuesday, what I am about to write beginning with the paragraph following this one will be largely mooted (how much so mooted depending, obviously, on what the contender "shut out" of both Indiana and North Carolina might do thereafter as regards continuing onward). As of this typing, it seems more likely that Mr. Obama will win both States than that Mrs. Clinton will win both-- but, until votes are actually cast and counted in both States, who knows? "A week is a year in Politics..." and all that.
However, what if Senator Obama wins North Carolina while Senator Clinton wins Indiana (as of now, more likely than a 6 May split the other way round: although, in the main, what I am now writing will still apply in such a case as well)?
Simply put: each Democratic contender will thereafter have to keep the other from putting together a "run" of victories along the lines of what Senator Obama was able to do in the month between 5 February and 4 March-- that is: one of the two being able to win all, or at least all but one, of the last 6 determinative Primaries may well be the very catalyst that will (finally!) push the as of yet uncommitted (at least publicly) "superdelegates" towards endorsing the contender who comes out looking much better "down the stretch", movement among these "superdelegates" that would then give that "better looking" contender the presidential nomination itself (if only by the proverbial "nose").
West Virginia on 13 May seems, at least on the surface, to be more Clinton than Obama territory (what with its panhandle well nestled in between Pennsylvania and Ohio, both of which Mrs. Clinton has already won handily). Assuming a Clinton victory in the State where Mountaineers are ever free (and, again, this coming after a "split decision" the week before, which we are here assuming- if only for the sake of this particular argument), then Oregon on 20 May turns into "must win" territory for Mr. Obama (even should Clinton take Kentucky [like West Virginia, demographically seemingly more in her favor than his] that very same day).
What Senator Obama cannot afford is to see Senator Clinton win 6 of the final 7 determinative Primaries (let alone all 7!); put another way: whatever he might win come next Tuesday, 6 May cannot be the date of his final victory of the Primary "season". That is but one reason why this "home stretch" will, indeed, be a "test" for Barack Obama, much in the way that the four weeks between 5 February and 4 March proved to be a "test"- and a trying one at that!- for Hillary Clinton, another reason, obviously, being what I wrote, in my previous Commentary, when I stated that Senator Obama put together his "run" of first-step delegate selection event victories between 'Super Duper' Tuesday on 5 February and Super Tuesday II on 4 March largely thanks to local Caucuses. Now. however, there are no more local Caucuses.
And, speaking of local Caucuses, another thing to watch for (again, depending on what actually transpires on 6 May and how that might- or might not- adversely affect one or the other Democrat's continuing to campaign) is the potential for so-called "buyer's remorse". As I noted earlier in this piece, two of the final ten Primaries are Advisory, having no direct effect on delegate selection: the first of these is Nebraska, same day as West Virginia (13 May).
We have already had an at least minor example of the potential for this phenomenon back in February: Senator Obama won the Caucuses in the State of Washington handily on 9 February (winning some 2/3 of the precinct delegates to higher-tier Conventions in that State); but, a mere ten days later, in Washington's non-binding Advisory Primary, Obama barely cleared a majority of the vote (51% to 46% for Mrs. Clinton).
Might there be a similar expression of such "buyer's remorse" in Nebraska (where Obama, likewise, won 2/3 of the Caucus vote back in February)? Keep in mind that, unlike that in Washington State, this Advisory Primary will be coinciding with Nebraska's regular State and local Primaries (a fact that may well prove to be a factor affecting voter turnout). In any event, it might well turn out to be rather interesting to see how Nebraska's Democrats vote now compared to the numbers which came out of Nebraska's Caucuses back on 9 February (at a time [was it really as long ago as it seems right now? ;-)] when Senator Obama was, no question, much more the "hot commodity").
And, further, might any such evidence of "buyer's remorse" as might be seen in Nebraska come to affect Mr. Obama's chances in Oregon (a State similar enough to neighboring Washington so as to be considered winnable by the Illinois Senator) a week later? We are now getting rather ahead of ourselves here, so I won't speculate beyond Oregon (besides, I might want to actually have something to write about nearly a month from now! [;-)])
One thing about Indiana involving a rather curious feature of its Primaries that here bears noting:
The Hoosier State has a rather unique approach to Party affiliation. Technically speaking, voters in Indiana do not register to vote by Party (thus, also technically speaking, Indiana's Primary is "Open"- in that it cannot possibly be closed, since there is no Party registration per se). Nevertheless, a voter's history of Primary voting (that is, in which Party's Primary a voter has voted in the past) is a matter of public record; yet, at the same time, this public history is not available to those officially overseeing the Primary at individual polling places.
If an Indiana voter suspects that someone else is voting in the Primary of a Party in whose Primary that voter has not previously voted, he or she can legally challenge the voter so suspected at the polls themselves. In such a case, the suspicious voter (the challenger) must fill out an affidavit that the suspected voter (the challengee) has not voted in the Party's Primaries in the past (presumably, the challenger has already done his or her share of "homework" in searching the public record heretofore mentioned). In response, the challengee must fill out an affidavit that he or she will vote for at least the majority of the Party's candidates in the ensuing General Election in order to then be allowed to vote in that Party's Primary (if the challengee refuses to do so, he or she will not be allowed to vote in that Party's Primaries).
Of course, there is no way to actually discover whether or not a challengee will have violated said pledge come November (it is a secret ballot, after all!) but one has to wonder as to the strength of the "intimidation factor" (or, if not, at least the "annoyance factor"!) in keeping Republicans from voting in the Democratic Primary and vice versa. I myself think that the fact that Indiana is holding its State and local Primaries at the same time as its Presidential Primaries might prove to be enough of a deterrent (for is voting in Indiana's Democratic Presidential Primary really enough of an incentive for a Republican to pass up on voting in his own Party's Primaries for other elective offices?)
I did see some passing references in the "blogosphere" (albeit some time ago now) relative to apparent fears, on the part of Democrats, that Republicans might attempt to vote in the Indiana Democratic Presidential Primary, if only in an attempt to, somehow, "throw" Indiana's Primary to the Democrat they might come to feel Senator John McCain, the GOP nominee-presumptive, would more easily defeat come November, along with some "talk" that those voters suspected of being Republicans passing themselves off as Democrats in the Hoosier State on 6 May should be so challenged. It will be most interesting to see if just such a thing might actually transpire (on however small, or large, a scale) come next Tuesday!
Finally, a further note about that "Democles' sword" ever hanging over the head of the Democratic Party US this Spring going on into Summer: just what to do about potentially seating National Convention delegates from Florida and Michigan.
A preliminary hearing on the matter is scheduled for Saturday 31 May before the Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee. This, by the way, is basically the same procedure that was used, back in 1972, in relation to the disputed 151 delegates from California to that year's Democratic Convention (as outlined in a piece I wrote this past 19 March). And, as in 1972, it will be the Credentials Committee for this year's Democratic National Convention which will, eventually, have to make the first definitive statement about whether or not to seat Florida's and Michigan's delegations "as is" (unless the 31 May meeting happens to, somehow, lead to some kind of agreement amenable to all parties to the dispute- these being the Democratic National Committee itself, along with the Democratic Parties in the two States in question, as well as the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns [given the potential effect including Florida and Michigan "as is" in the Convention would thereafter have- positive for one campaign, negative for the other]).
In any event, the actual sequence of events through at least the earliest of the remaining Presidential Primaries (as I have outlined them earlier in this very Commentary) will certainly end up influencing what might well come out of said meeting on 31 May!