Wednesday, February 6, 2008

California campaign notes

Shortly after 10 p.m. Pacific Time, with the polls closed for just two hours, and about 23 percent of the vote reported, Hillary Clinton has 54 percent of the Democratic vote in California, and Barack Obama, 34 percent. Among Republicans, John McCain leads with 44 percent, followed by Mitt Romney with 26 percent and Mike Huckabee with 12 percent.

Despite the small fraction of the results reported so far, ABC News called California for Clinton and McCain at about 9:45 p.m. Considering that nationally, the popular vote and the delegate counts of Clinton and Obama are so very close, it will be interesting to see if that picture still holds for the Democratic candidates in the morning.

But whatever the final outcome, the Democratic Party is certain to have been transformed by the movement that has developed around Obama. On the eve of the election, as a large crowd of his supporters gathered in Oakland for a final evening of phone banking, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) told them, “This is more than a campaign, it’s a movement ... Because of Barack Obama, we have hope and optimism. We know it’s our country and we can change it.”

A record 9 million Californians voted in the state’s earliest-ever primary — one third more than in 2004. In a new phenomenon that could delay the final count, about 5 million of them used mail ballots, either sending them in advance or bringing them to their polling places. In addition, a number of counties used paper ballots after some electronic machines were disallowed by the Secretary of State.

Many independent, or “decline to state,” voters participated in the Democratic primary. They were not allowed to do so in the Republican primary.

Both Democratic candidates fielded tens of thousands of volunteers. The Obama campaign estimated that up to 7,000 Californians devoted at least 40 hours a week to the effort, and reported that volunteers made some 220,000 phone calls on Jan. 26.

At any event, it will be some time before California’s Democratic Party delegates are finally apportioned, since the party uses a complicated proportional system to assign the 370 delegates, out of 441, that are pledged to a specific candidate. The remaining so-called super delegates are unpledged.

Most of the Republicans’ 173 delegates are awarded according to the candidate winning in each congressional district.

Marilyn Bechtel

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