Midterms took a back seat as many Yalies spent Tuesday night glued to their TVs and computers, waiting anxiously for official reports from precincts in Houston and El Paso, Cleveland and Columbus.
By press time, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 was projected to win Democratic presidential primaries in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, while Illinois Sen. Barack Obama took Vermont. The closeness of the results notwithstanding, student supporters of both campaigns seized on the results as evidence that their candidates are better poised to secure the Party’s nomination as the fight moves in the coming weeks to Mississippi, Wyoming and Pennsylvania.
Tuesday’s results proved that Clinton is still a viable candidate and still in the race, said Addisu Demissie LAW ’08, the state director of Clinton’s campaign in Connecticut — not that he needed any convincing, he said.
Demissie said winning handily in Ohio — perennially a crucial swing state — attested to Clinton’s viability as a candidate who can win the general election in November.
But snapping Obama’s winning streak — he had emerged victorious in the 11 preceding nominating contests — did not really change the dynamic of the campaign, Demissie said, which would have continued past Tuesday anyway.
“Nothing’s different — we’re going on to Pennsylvania and Wyoming,” he said. “You name it, we’ll be there.”
But Jacob Koch ’10, campus coordinator of Yale for Obama, said any psychological victory the Clinton campaign may have claimed last night does not change Obama’s numerical lead.
“This is going to get spun a lot of ways by the Clinton campaign,” he said, “but what it comes down to is Obama has still won more states, more votes and more delegates.”
While Koch said he wishes Obama had wrapped up the nomination last night, he said he still thinks Obama will win, especially considering how much he managed to narrow Clinton’s once-significant leads in Ohio and Texas.
That is exactly what Demissie said he expected Obama supporters to say. But he said Obama’s campaign failed to deliver on its promise to finish off the campaign last night.
“Barack Obama has had every advantage in this campaign in the last month. He was anointed the nominee by the press and by his campaign,” Demissie said. “If he can’t close the deal today, it means there’s still some doubt about him out there.”
Obama’s failure to land a “knock-out blow,” said Ben Stango ’11, president of Yale Students for Hillary, was a testament to voters’ focus on the flailing economy and other issues, rather than campaign rhetoric.
“You lose the crowd that rallies around the word ‘change’ and get the crowd that rallies around the issues,” he said.
So the campaign will go on, but after all, Demissie said, the general election is still eight months away and, historically, primary battles have frequently continued into June, as was the case in 1992.
But as the Democrats continue to vie for the nomination, even as Arizona Sen. John McCain secured the Republican nod last night, some Democrats are concerned that a prolonged struggle could disadvantage their party — whoever the nominee ends up being — come November.
“People’s main concern is giving John McCain an eight-week pass to the convention when he can shore up support and get his fundraising in order and start sniping at the Democrats,” said Ben Shaffer ’09, president of the Yale College Democrats, who said he spent Tuesday night constantly refreshing online reports of the election returns. “If the race continues as contentiously as it has, that helps McCain.”
The next Democratic caucus will be held March 8 in Wyoming, and the next Democratic primary will be March 11 in Mississippi. Pennsylvania will hold its primary April 22.