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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Wyoming and the Caucus Pattern

Wyoming is the least populous state in the country. In the Democratic Primary, Wyoming has been allocated less delegates (12) than any other state. (Alaska and North Dakota are the next smallest with 13 each.) In every election, primary or general, Wyoming has been all but dismissed as an afterthought, lucky enough to have a candidate fly over it on the way to and from the west coast. In the past, the state has been an insignificant mini-caucus.

Yet today, Wyoming is a giant.

The twelve delegates are not worth as much in math as they are in momentum. Hillary Clinton scored a win last Tuesday, when she won primaries in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island, ending Barack Obama's 11 state streak. While in the end she only netted herself 9 delegates, what was more important was that Obama's four weeks of momentum was halted, and her indefinite momentum had begun.

There are only two contests between the aforementioned March 4th primaries and the much talked about Pennsylvania Primary on April 22nd. Today's Wyoming Caucus is one of them, while Tuesday's Mississippi Primary, with its 33 delegates, is the other. The 45 delegates from these two states will be the last pledged delegates awarded before Pennsylvania's 158. It explains why the candidates would take time to visit even sparsely populated Wyoming.

Frustratingly for Clinton and her supporters, both of these states will go to Obama. (There are no Wyoming polls or polling data or projected delegates to back this up, but it will happen.) The dissection of Mississippi will be Tuesday. Wyoming will be in Obama's corner by the end of the night for two reasons.

1. Obama wins caucuses.
2. Geography.

The caucus factor is well known by now. Including the Texas Caucus this past week, Barack Obama has a 12-1 record in states that have chosen to go with caucuses instead of traditional primaries. It began famously with the Iowa Caucus last on January 3. Clinton took the next caucus in Nevada, but since then Obama has rattled off Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, and Texas (though Clinton took the Texas primary) without dropping any.

Equally important is the margin by which he is winning these caucuses, especially Wyoming's geographical neighbors. (Click here for a map of the U.S. for reference.) Obama won the Colorado Caucus 67% to 32%. In Idaho, he won by an astounding 79% to 17%. He easily took Washington State 68% to 31%. In Kansas, he won by nearly a 3 to 1 ratio with 74% to her 26%. He took the Nebraska Caucus 68% to 32%. He won caucuses further from Wyoming by margins just as wide, including Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska.

And those are just the caucuses. He took the bordering Utah Primary with 57% of the vote to her 39%. In fact, the only two states that border Wyoming that he has not won are two states that have not voted yet. (Montana and South Dakota are the last two states to vote in the primary cycle, doing so on June 3rd. Of note, Puerto Rico has recently moved up from June 7th to June 1st.)

So yes, he will win Wyoming, and once again, the press will be covering Obama as a winner, and he will use that heading into his win on Tuesday in Mississippi. Ultimately, with these two wins in small states, he will undo most of the netted delegates that Clinton won on March 4th. All of the build up and effort by the Clinton campaign to do well last Tuesday resulted in winning by 9 delegates (out of nearly 400) and stealing momentum. Those wins are soon negated by Wyoming (3 delegate spread for Obama?) and Mississippi (5?), with the only difference now being that they are deeper into the primary season.

Once again, Hillary Clinton will be down by over 140 pledged delegates and without momentum, only there are less delegates remaining to make up the difference.

All thanks to Wyoming.

That has to frustrate her.

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