Analysis: Dems Tied In Super Tuesday Knots

By: by CBSNews.com Editorial Director Dick Meyer
By: by CBSNews.com Editorial Director Dick Meyer

(CBS) Democrats have taken to heart that great line from the old Bonnie Raitt song, "Let's give 'em somethin' to talk about." They'll be talking about the historic primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama from now on.

And thanks to a complicated split decision on Super Tuesday, it's certain to be a long, bloody bout. How long? "This could be a convention decision," said Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington.

So the ultimate winner of Super Tuesday won't really be known until much later in the year when one of the two candidates goes over the top in the delegate count. Until then, it's a spin war.

The Obama camp says Super Tuesday was supposed to be the day the lethal and inevitable Clinton Machine was supposed to close the deal and get the nomination. And the Clinton squadron says Obama's post-South Carolina surge petered out.

But the state that probably best represented the country on Tsunami Tuesday was the Show Me state of Missouri, which showed the country that the Democratic race is essentially a tie. The winner in Missouri wasn't clear until four-and-half hours after the polls closed when Obama won by about 5,000 votes out of more than 800,000 cast.

Hillary Clinton claimed the grand prizes of California, New Jersey and New York. She won Massachusetts despite Senator Ted Kennedy's much publicized endorsement of Obama. She ended the night with a slender lead in the delegate count. But it was still a lead.

Women and older voters continued to support Clinton in force and that is perhaps her greatest long-term advantage in this race.

Obama picked Clinton's pocket in Connecticut, and handily won his home state of Illinois. He displayed strength all over the map from the Deep South to the Midwest and Far West. He dominated all the states that held caucuses, a sign of how energized his supporters are.

Well-educated, young and upscale voters once again came out for Obama, as did African-Americans. Independent voters went for Obama by a 58-35 margin according to exit polls. But Hispanic voters stayed with Clinton.

As for future momentum, well, forget it. This fight is round by round. It always has been.

Over the next two weeks, nine states plus the Virgin Islands will select delegates. Obama would seem to have a clear advantage in four of those locales: Louisiana, the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii. Democrats also give him the edge in Maryland, Wisconsin, Washington and Virginia. Nebraska and Maine look to be up for grabs.

Clinton, by contrast, has to wait three weeks for big states where her strategists like the odds - Texas and Ohio. After that, it's a long wait until Pennsylvania votes on April 22.

"After tonight, time becomes the ally of Senator Obama," said Rep. Richard Boucher (D-Va.) who has endorsed Obama. "The more exposure he gets the stronger his chances are. The compressed primary schedule has been a tremendous challenge for him."

Perhaps. But the challenge that endures for Obama is changing the way women and the over-60 crowds have voted so far this year. White women voted for Clinton by a huge margin, 58 percent to 38 percent. Voters over 60 went for Clinton 55-38. These groups are the stalwarts of Democratic primaries and pose a huge obstacle for Obama.

But Obama did win men on Super Tuesday, perhaps a sign he is getting the bulk of voters who had supported John Edwards. And he closed the gender gap overall, albeit only slightly.

In the money wars, Obama seems to have the edge at the moment. He raised a reported $32 million in January alone. Clinton raised $13.5 million.

This race, of course, will be historic because it will produce either the first female or black presidential nominee from a major American political party. People will also be talking about this campaign for decades to come for its sheer ferocity, closeness and duration - and its lack of predictability.

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