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Live Analysis: Super Tuesday Returns

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Robert G. Kaiser
Washington Post Associate Editor
Tuesday, February 5, 2008; 8:00 PM

Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser was online Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 8 p.m. ET to break down the returns from the Super Tuesday primaries as they're announced and examine what they mean for the candidates in the 2008 presidential primaries.

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He'll be joined at points during the evening by Ruth Marcus, Washington Post columnist; Richard Viguerie, author of "Conservatives Betrayed"; and David Karol, professor of political science at University of California-Berkeley.

The transcript follows.

Special Note: Because of the anticipated length of the discussion, responses will be posted in reverse order, with the most recent answers at the top.

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washingtonpost.com: Our thanks to Bob Kaiser, Ruth Marcus, Richard Viguerie and David Karol, as well as all of the readers who submitted questions. Hope to see you again for tomorrow at 11 a.m. for Post Politics Hour with Michael Shear, who has been following the Republicans on the campaign trail. Have a good night.

Posted 0:47 a.m., 2.6.2008

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David Karol: This has been an unique experience and I hope some of my answers were informative. Good night and best wishes to everyone from coast to coast!

Posted 0:43 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Washington: Not to look ahead, but hey, this is politics. What can we expect on the Democratic side this weekend? Washington is fairly progressive, similar to Minnesota, so I'd assume Obama plays well. Do we have a clue what the demographics are going to look for Democrats in Louisiana post-Katrina?

David Karol: Again, a key factor here is that Washington is a caucus state. That works in favor of Sen. Obama. Also, even post-Katrina there are many African Americans in Louisiana, and not all in the New Orleans area either, so he has a base of support there as well. The Clinton campaign long has known that the states following Super Tuesday are not the easiest ones for her, so a strong showing tonight was imperative.

Posted 0:38 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: What about Edwards' 26 delegates? What happens to them at the convention?

David Karol: They are free agents. If Edwards endorses someone, that might affect their choice, but he doesn't own them.

Posted 0:33 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Anonymous: When do Obama and Romney start closing the gap in California?

David Karol: It looks like they both are losing here.

Posted 0:30 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Ex-Berkeleyite: So is Hillary acceptable to a true blue (or true blue and gold) Berkeley-ite, or does it have to be Obama? Is God still alive and signing books at Moe's or Cody's?

David Karol: Hillary does have her supporters here, but alas Cody's is no longer on Telegraph. They still have a store on Fourth Street -- and no, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce is not sponsoring this chat!

Posted 0:27 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Palo Alto, Calif.: How does support for Obama vs. Clinton divide between north side and south side of campus? Is "top-dog" still selling bratwurst and libertarian philosophy? How does Berkeley divide between Obama and Hillary?

David Karol: Some things never change. Top Dog has kept the faith! Let's just say Ron Paul would feel right at home there. I don't know about a North/South split on campus. There might be some gap in the percentages, but in general, Obama is almost an ideal candidate for Berkeley.

Posted 0:19 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Re: Missouri: The Missouri race is neck-and-neck at this point. Obama just captured the lead with 97 percent reporting. Does it matter who wins when it's this close a race? Both of them gets a number of delegates, right?

David Karol: Yes, the delegate count will not change much, if at all, whether Obama gets 48 percent or 52 percent in Missouri, but there is a psychological effect of winning and having the state colored in on the map in a way that makes you look stronger. Candidates know this and, whatever they say, they want to win states as well as delegates.

Posted 0:15 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Vienna, Va.: So what happens to the Edwards votes in California now that he's no longer on the ballot? Do they kinda just ... mean nothing? A no-starter spoiler?

David Karol: Unfortunately, yes. I wouldn't say that they are "spoiling" anything, but a lot of the people who voted early for Edwards may be wishing they had waited.

Posted 0:13 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Hong Kong: For these early results in California, are these more likely just the absentee ballots (especially seeing the 10 percent for Edwards)? Or are these just faster districts?

David Karol: A lot of them are absentee votes.

Posted 0:09 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Democrats in the general: Do you think that the split (more or less even) among voters for Obama and Clinton bodes ill for either (but more for her) when one of them eventually wins the nomination? Do you think that a split party will make it more difficult for them to win in November?

David Karol: I actually don't think this is a problem for Democrats. Clinton and Obama clearly have passionate supporters and have greatest appeal to particular sectors of the party, but in the end both are broadly acceptable to Democrats. A recent Pew Survey showed about 80 percent of Democrats approved of Obama and a similar number liked Clinton.

By contrast, all of the remaining GOP candidates are unpopular with important sectors of their party and this is a problem for the Republicans looking forward to the fall campaign.

Posted 0:07 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Reston, Va.: CNN is showing that Obama has four delegates and Clinton has two delegates in Missouri even though Clinton is leading by 2 percent at this time. Can you explain how this?

washingtonpost.com: CNN is including superdelegates in its state-by-state counts, so for instance one of those Obama delegates is Sen. Claire McCaskill. See the fine print on this page.

Posted 0:05 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Washington: Do you think George Allen is kicking himself wherever he is tonight?

David Karol: This is the great forgotten story. Had George Allen not self-destructed in 2006 the GOP establishment might have had a candidate they could rally around. Fred Thompson was supposed to be that candidate, but he also underwhelmed.

Posted 0:02 a.m., 2.6.2008

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Denver: Are there any indicators in the primary elections and caucus results that can tell us how a candidate will do in the general election?

David Karol: Some would argue that appeal to independent voters taking part in primaries and caucuses, which we can gauge from exit polls, is a good indicator. By this standard the conventional wisdom is correct; Obama and McCain are the best choices for their parties. I don't think that's the whole story however. Senator Obama has never really faced serious Republican attacks and it is not clear how well his post-partisan uniter image would hold up in the face of them.

Posted 11:58 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Re: Missouri: The Missouri primary has eight presidential candidates (all the ones we long forgot about) and "undecided" and "others." Why do they allow this? I mean, what is the point of voting for someone who long ago dropped out of the race? If Kucinich got 720 votes, would he get any delegates?

David Karol:720 votes will not get Kucinich any delegates. The rules require candidates to get 15% of the vote in order to earn delegates. The candidates names are on the ballots, because they are printed in advance and the campaign changes so quickly. Many people have voted by mail for candidates who are no longer running. This is a problem. States should think about how early they want to send out these ballots.

Posted 11:54 p.m., 2.5.2008

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For David Karol: There is a kind of "conventional wisdom" in the press that the Republican voters in California are more like the Republicans in the Northeast -- social moderates, fiscal conservatives. Rudy Giuliani was thought to be able to do well in California. When I lived in California, however, the Republicans -- particularly the primary voters -- were social conservatives. Has this changed?

David Karol: It's not Utah, but the Republican primary voters in California are pretty conservative, and have nominated social conservatives in recent years. These candidates have not done well in statewide general elections out here. A prominent example is Bill Simon, the last GOP candidate for Governor before Schwarzenegger. He was much too conservative for the state and lost at a time when Gray Davis, the Democratic incumbent, was quite unpopular. Also, the GOP rules here do not permit independents to vote in the presidential primary, which works to the disadvantage of Senator McCain.

Posted 11:52 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: That's it for me tonight. David Karol is on deck out in California and will answer some more questions, so send them in. He is a proper California expert, even!

My parting thought: This is a year to savor, to remember and to tell grandchildren about. Thanks to all for tuning in, commenting and sending good questions. Obama, McCain, Clinton, Romney and Huckabee are all proud of their supporters, but I'll take the readers of washingtonpost.com any day! You are terrific.

Posted 11:50 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: My liberal friends all support Obama; my politico friends support Clinton. I would think, therefore, that California -- like Minnesota -- would support Obama. Why is that not the prevailing assumption?

David Karol: There is a big difference: Minnesota has a caucus, California has a primary. Candidates with passionate followings often do well in caucuses, because they play a larger role due to the lower turnout. Ron Paul has had his better showings in caucuses. Caucuses also reward organization, so Mitt Romney, who has been able to fund organizations where others could not, also is doing well in some Midwestern caucuses tonight.

Posted 11:49 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Why are Californians voting for Edwards at the rate we're seeing?

David Karol: Many Californians voted for Edwards by mail before he dropped out.

Posted 11:44 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Boulder, Colo.: I just returned from Democratic caucus in Boulder, Colorado. The location was utterly swamped, 2,000 people when 200 were expected! My precinct went 102 for Obama to 36 for Clinton. Tons of excitement and huge numbers on the Obama side. Unbelievable turnout -- and it was very exciting to be part of such a historic moment.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you very much for this. Fascinating. Is Colorado becoming a Democratic state? Could be...

Posted 11:43 p.m., 2.5.2008

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California pre-primary polls: The latest Reuters-C-SPAN-Zogby have Obama polling at 49 percent and Clinton at 36 percent. The latest SurveyUSA has Clinton polling at 53 percent and Obama at 41 percent. Both are within a day of each other. Both have a 3.3 percent margin of error. Obviously one of these polls (if not both) is wrong -- way outside the margin of error. When these pollsters see results like this, shouldn't they realize that their polls (both) are probably vastly undersampled, and that they need to redo their poll? Finally, just a funny aside: I was listening to the BBC this morning and one of the hosts kept pronouncing Obama like the "bama" in Alabama.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. You are absolutely right, there was at least one, and I think now probably two bad polls in California this week. But the Field Poll a few days ago, calling it very close, seems to have been better. It is a more reputable poll than either of these. All polls are NOT alike.

Posted 11:42 p.m., 2.5.2008

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So Exciting: Wow! I am enjoying this so much. I am in my 30s, do not remember Nixon resigning (I was 2 months old), missed the turbulent '60s, and a black man and woman were on the Supreme Court from the time I understood what the Supreme Court was, so this is huge to me. Living, voting and seeing history being made is unbelievable. Watching a woman and man of color vie for a major party nomination is thrilling. So where does this rank for all of you? Is it exciting, does it feel historic?

Robert G. Kaiser: It is very historic, though some hard-bitten old reporters are loathe to admit it. It is the most exciting presidential campaign in a very long time.

Posted 11:41 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Scituate, Mass.: I have heard quite a bit about how Huckabee "needs to raise some money" in order to survive -- since New Hampshire, I believe. However, it seems to me -- based on what I've seen so far tonight -- that he is managing to pull a significant number of votes without resorting to the buy-a-vote strategy. It seems he may even beat Romney in terms of the state and the delegate count, an outcome that the punditry and journalists, again, seemed to ignore. (I am not a Huck fan, I voted for Obama.) Going forward, say as far as the GOP convention, will Huckabee have any clout as far as crowning the GOP candidate for president is concerned?

Robert G. Kaiser: Fair point. But money is important in our politics, even if, like Huckabee in the last month, you can do better without it than some people think.

Posted 11:40 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: If the California exit polls are to be believed, Latinos went heavily for Clinton again. Why is it Latinos are so hesitant to vote for Obama?

Robert G. Kaiser: You sound like you think voting for Obama is the natural thing to do, but that for mysterious reasons Latinos are resisting it. Silly idea.

In fact young Latinos are voting for Obama; older ones and particularly women are not. People are different.

Posted 11:39 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Ashland, Mo.: Why are political reporters and others so intent on declaring that someone has momentum? Isn't it possible that no one has it -- that each race is its own dynamic, and not particularly related to what has happened before? What is wrong with reporting things that way?

Robert G. Kaiser: Nothing. Indeed, I think you've described the situation in both parties tonight. McCain hoped for momentum that, because of Huckabee's strong showing in the South, he was denied. Obama and Clinton are really tight, and neither shows a big advantage. But Obama has moved up fast and far in the last month, an important fact. I think we're looking for momentum to be able to say someone is clearly ahead, a real favorite. We're not there yet.

Posted 11:38 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Berkeley: What is the sentiment on campus at Berkeley? Who are students, professors and locals supporting?

David Karol: In Berkeley, Obama is the favorite. This is probably true of campuses and college towns everywhere.

Posted 11:36 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Seattle: How are delegates awarded for the Democrats in California? How close does Obama have to be to Clinton's total for his campaign to consider it a win?

David Karol: Delegates in California are allocated proportionally. In fact, this is true of all states. Democratic rules ban winner-take-all primaries and require proportionality.

Posted 11:33 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Georgia: Georgia voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 by 1 percent.

Robert G. Kaiser: Oooh, bad mistake by me. Thank you!

Posted 11:33 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Rockville, Md.: With all the talk of race and gender in this election, are we actually seeing that the fault lines are based more on class? That's the issue we seem less likely to talk about.

Robert G. Kaiser: I've just been looking at the 9:30 p.m. version of the exit poll, which does show that Obama does better than Hillary among college graduates, and among people with earnings greater than $50,000 -- but not a great deal better. I don't think we really have fault lines in the Democratic Party now. We have groups more inclined to one candidate or another, but they aren't overwhelming.

Posted 11:33 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: And we are now joined by University of California-Berkeley professor David Karol. Send in your questions about the Golden State's primaries now.

Posted 11:31 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Carmel, Ind.: Further to my previous post, Romney is toast. Huckabee now has the entire anti-McCain crowd to play to.

Robert G. Kaiser: Glad we've cleared that up.

Posted 11:28 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Redwood City, Calif.: "Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. Remember, polls show that a majority of Americans do not believe in evolution." Please please tell me this was a typo?

Robert G. Kaiser: Not at all. I'd go down the hall and bother Jon Cohen, our polling director, to get the numbers, but he is too busy on tonight's exit polls and such. But this finding is repeated again and again; most Americans do not believe in evolution.

Posted 11:28 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Viking, Minn.: Minnesota endorsed their home sons, Mondale and Humphrey. They voted against Reagan -- both times. In fact, in most landslide victories and losses the state has voted the opposite of the national results. Does this suggest something about Obama's brilliant (stunning?) defeat of Clinton here?

Robert G. Kaiser: Not much

Posted 11:27 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Helena, Mont.: John McCain opted for public financing, he even borrowed against the money he was to receive, but now he wants to "opt out." Is this a possibility? Who decides?

washingtonpost.com: From this story: "McCain's aides were worried enough to flirt with the idea of accepting federal funds, and they reorganized their financial accounting to prepare for it. But the aides say the campaign is now unlikely to do that, because it would be forced to respect the spending caps that accompany such funds."

Robert G. Kaiser: Chris Hopkins has provided your answer here.

Posted 11:26 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Clinton and African American voters: I have noticed a lot of questions saying "how can McCain win without winning the South?" Can't a similar question be asked of Clinton and African American voters, who are stalwarts of the Democratic Party?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well sure, but would blacks not vote for Hillary if she were the candidate?

Posted 11:25 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Robert Kaiser: Iron Chatter. You should check if this is some sort of Washington Post record.

Robert G. Kaiser: Hey, on Sept. 11 we did this for about 14 hours I think. It's just sitting and typing, after all. Not too strenuous.

Posted 11:25 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Re: Missouri: I am sitting tight to see who will win in Missouri, but the results are ever so slow coming out of there. I think that for the next primary I am going to find a good political junkie place to hang out at rather than being at home. Someone asked for places to hang out at to watch the results coming out on the political chat this morning, and there was no answer.

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't know of such a place either. Organize your own party!

Posted 11:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Berea, Ohio: Does Romney abandon his campaign tomorrow evening?

Robert G. Kaiser: Absolutely not, as he made clear in his speech tonight.

Posted 11:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Warwick, N.Y.: Obama's main selling point, it seems to me, is that he competes in places where Clinton will lose. Is this borne out tonight? Did he receive more votes in some of these red states that he won than were cast for the GOP candidates, such as Georgia, or North Dakota? If he got enough votes to make a case that he'll flip these states into the blue column in November, he's closed the case, in my opinion. If not, then the emphasis will be on the fact that he lost the big blue states. (Well, we'll wait for Missouri and California first.)

Robert G. Kaiser: Frankly I think you're off on the wrong tack here. These primaries don't really speak to the question of November electability. A Democrat carrying Georgia or North Dakota is a real long-shot. Georgia is slightly more plausible in my view, but it hasn't happened since native-son Jimmy Carter did it in 1976 -- quite a while ago! In fact tonight's results seem to confirm evidence from the earlier primaries that in general, Democrats are fired up and ready to go this year, while Republicans are not.

Posted 11:23 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Potomac Primaries: I was watching TV Friday and saw an Obama ad about five or six times within 60 to 90 minutes. I truly wondered how people in Iowa, New Hampshire put up with all the ads they get. I haven't seen any Clinton ads yet. I ended up wondering what's the point of blanketing us with these ads. Do they really work? Do ads at that level of frequency have any added benefit?

Robert G. Kaiser: Oh yes, there is a great deal of utterly persuasive evidence that TV commercials influence the outcome of elections, which is why TV ads are still the biggest single expense in any campaign -- usually at least 50 percent of the total.

Posted 11:18 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Manchester, N.Y.: I've voted for Hillary Clinton a few times, including today, and the minute any publication stops being hard on her will be the beginning of the end. I read The Washington Post and think they are just fine. Obama is a classic underdog story, and he's doing a fantastic job keeping it in the headlines. Hillary is a big girl, she can handle it. Democrats simply should be happy to have two fantastic choices. Am I the only Democrat in America who could be happy with either as president?

Robert G. Kaiser: You certainly are not. Our reporters have found many such Democrats. Indeed, since a year ago, Democrats in polls regularly have expressed much more satisfaction with and enthusiasm about their field of candidates than have Republicans.

Posted 11:17 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: We should be joined in about 15 minutes by David Karol, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California-Berkeley. He'll talk about the scene and exit polling on the West Coast and also discuss the situation nationwide.

Posted 11:16 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Berkeley, Calif.: Is Huckabee doing well enough tonight to make this a real three-person race for the GOP (if it wasn't before)?

Robert G. Kaiser: Very possible. He needs, however, to raise some money.

Posted 11:14 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Bridgewater, Mass.: About the comment on whites not being willing to vote for African Americans in Massachusetts: In the governor's race, Patrick was way ahead in the polls, and his vote total reflected the polls almost perfectly. His election was a statewide high. There have been repeated sightings reported of Bill Clinton walking on water in Massachusetts for a decade -- it's surprising an opponent of a Clinton got any votes. Obama will do fine here in November.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. It's intriguing how many people want to make racial comments here. I confess I am ignoring some of them.

Posted 11:12 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Jerusalem: It seems so far that McCain was unable to win the conservative voters and states like Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas, which went to Huckabee. Can he be the legitimate Republican nominee without winning any of the Southern states? Were there any Republican presidential nominees who faired as badly among the conservative base of the GOP?

Robert G. Kaiser: You're right, McCain comes out of tonight with questions hovering over his candidacy that weren't hovering this morning. I think those results point up the discomfort of many in the Republican base with his candidacy. It is quite stunning how well Huckabee has done today.

Posted 11:11 p.m., 2.5.2008

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San Luis Obispo, Calif.: I'm a Democrat and my husband is a Republican. We usually receive a lot of campaign literature delivered to our front door. But no one from any Democratic or Republican campaign canvassed our neighborhood before the California primary today. I haven't seen many bumper stickers or campaign signs here on California's central coast, except for Ron Paul. California rarely has a chance to help decide whom the nominees will be, so this really surprised me. I was an Edwards supporter and had a hard time deciding who to vote for, or I would have volunteered to do it myself. Given all the excitement about the closeness of the races, somehow we've missed that in my California county.

Robert G. Kaiser: Interesting. I suspect your experience reflects the amount of time, energy and money devoted to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Posted 11:06 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Reston, Va.: Robert, you will have to believe when people complain about the perceived favoritism towards Obama in The Post. I am neutral and have been reading The Washington Post for the past 12 years (ever since I landed in this country). I can't even vote unless INS gets their act together and makes me a citizen in six months.

Even a neutral non-U.S. citizen like me felt that The Post is being too harsh to Clinton. I even asked why there was less coverage of Obama misdoings, and about how he is not available to the press that much, and all I got was "those issues will be covered" or "I am not the one covering the Obama campaign." I guess Clinton has a longer record and so is under more scrutiny, but truly, it felt as if The Post was being more negative on Clinton. All that said, what an exciting time for the country. I have a full day of meetings tomorrow and I can't get myself to logoff and go to bed.

Robert G. Kaiser: Hey, I can't tell you or anyone what to think about our coverage -- I only can tell you that there is no concerted effort here to help or hinder any candidate.

Posted 11:00 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Santa Fe, N.M. -- report from balloting: New Mexico Democrats "caucused" today, but it really was more of a ballot. Precincts were combined, three or four to a voting location, and voting did not begin until noon. I never have seen so many people voting. It was a 20-minute wait, when usually I can go right in to vote. The parking lot was a nightmare, with recent snow and ice complicating things. I walked, so I have no idea how long it took to park. I was just getting out of the way of the cars.

The poll workers did as good a job as they could, directing cars in the parking lot and trying to maneuver people in the alphabetical lines. There were many more people with A-G and N-Z names than those in the middle, at least when I was there. The ballots will be hand-counted, so look for a long night here.

Robert G. Kaiser: Many thanks for this.

Posted 10:57 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Apologies if you've already answered this: It appears that, in the states Obama has won, he is winning by a larger margin than in the state's Clinton wins. It could be because not all the votes are in, but do you think there's any significance to that trend? Does it lend credence to the argument that Obama was making big gains but ran out of time?

Robert G. Kaiser: Too soon to say much about this, but I did note one interesting fact: Obama's margin in Illinois is considerably bigger than Clinton's in New York. Significance? Not sure.

Posted 10:57 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Re: Huckabee: As much as I dread the possibility of a Republican winning the election, I will be baffled if McCain picks Huckabee as his vice president. Sure, he gets the conservative vote -- but also the FairTax stance, and Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution! McCain surely can do better than picking Huckabee. And as I read elsewhere, what happens if McCain dies while in office? I think conservatives would be quite happy to see if Huckabee becomes a president then.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. Remember, polls show that a majority of Americans do not believe in evolution.

Posted 10:56 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Falls Church, Va.: I'm a registered Independent but want to vote in the Democratic primary this time. Will Virginia allow me to do that? I feel more excited about the race now than ever before. I really hope I can take part.

washingtonpost.com: From the Fairfax County government Web site: "Voters in Virginia do not register by political party. Therefore, any registered voter may choose to vote in any party primary. However, when both parties hold a primary at the same time, voters must select whether they wish to vote the Democratic or the Republican ballot."

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's your answer. Go for it.

Posted 10:55 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: Ruth Marcus and Richard Viguerie have signed off for the night, and we thank them both very much for participating.

Posted 10:55 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Los Angeles: When was the last time a party's nominee remained up in the air until the actual convention? Is there anything we can learn about what might occur in this election cycle from such a situation in the past?

Robert G. Kaiser: I will show my age: 1952, so long ago that it was a different world. The population of the U.S. was about 150 million at the time. Letters cost $.03. Cokes cost a nickel. Forget about it! No help there.

Posted 10:55 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Bangor, Maine: Thanks for doing this, Mr. Kaiser. I just wondered when we will have a fuller idea of the delegate count from Super Tuesday. So far the numbers listed on The Washington Post homepage are rather partial.

Robert G. Kaiser: Sometime tomorrow, at the soonest.

Posted 10:54 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Reston, Va.: The other day Gene Weingarten said in his chat that he thinks Hillary actually will make a better president than Obama, but he doesn't think Hillary stands a chance of winning the general election, and so he supports Obama. There might be other reasons for him liking Obama, but he pointed something that's in the mind of many a soul who wants to see a Democrat win the next election, which might explain a huge Obama push across the country. What are your thoughts on what Gene said? I am one of the people hoping for Hillary/Obama or Obama/Hillary ticket, even though I know that won't happen. Thanks for the chat. This is fun.

washingtonpost.com: Chatological Humor (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 4)

Robert G. Kaiser: Gene, being crazy, and being Gene, is allowed to declare himself in that way. I confess it would be hard for me to do, even if I had a license to do it -- which I don't feel that I do.

I believe campaigns are dynamic; things change. The polls do suggest today that Obama is a slightly stronger candidate against McCain than Clinton is. Does that mean this would inevitably be true in November? Of course not. She might become much stronger, or much weaker. Ditto for Obama. Michael Dukakis was 18 points ahead of George H.W. Bush at the end of the Democratic convention in 1988. Remember President Dukakis?

Posted 10:54 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Alexandria, Va.:"One of the rewards of living this long is to realize that the world does change. A lot." What a beautiful statement. And a way to keep hope for this twentysomething who has been so dismayed by the federal government for as long as she can remember.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. I've felt the same way!

Posted 10:49 p.m., 2.5.2008

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New York: Are you confident Obama will win the Beltway primaries? Washington I can see, but Maryland and Virginia? And how much longer does this go? Will Ohio and Texas be the end, or do we go on to West Virginia, Guam and Puerto Rico in May?

Robert G. Kaiser: As I said earlier, the Obama campaign thinks it is in good shape around Washington. I don't think we can say tonight what the duration of this may be.

Posted 10:49 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Arlington, Va.: Watching Mitt Romney's speech, I have two comments: This is probably the most fired-up I've seen him yet, and he inexplicably reminds me of Jimmy Stewart. (I'm a Democrat, for the record.)

Robert G. Kaiser: Okay, you're entitled to your comparisons!

Posted 10:48 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Richmond, Va.: I continue to love reading The Washington Post (as a transplant from the District) and believe me, as an Obama lover, they sometimes have infuriated me with some of their Obama coverage But all in all, it is pretty even. More often than not, it depends on the columnist, the news that week and what fan they "choose" to flame (sorry, had to slip in a knock at the free press in order to fit in!).

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 10:47 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I hope this hasn't been asked and answered, but unless I missed it, The Washington Post has not endorsed any candidates. Why not? It seems these primaries have taken on an extraordinary importance that would motivate The Post's Editorial Board to share its choices, like other newspapers.

Ruth Marcus: Guess I should take this one, as a member of the editorial board. We do not have a history of making presidential endorsements in primaries. And I'd direct you to the long editorial we ran on our assessment of the candidates a few Sundays ago.

Posted 10:46 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: I've been listening to NPR's coverage tonight -- I know you can't speak for them, but I heard something a little while ago that mirrors a broader trend of media commentary (including print and TV) that I've noticed since New Hampshire, and would appreciate your reaction. NPR called Massachusetts for Clinton. After noting that this was a significant victory for Clinton, the host/commentator almost immediately raised the question of whether her victory reflected a reluctance of Massachusetts voters -- "a state with a history of troubled race relations" -- to vote for an African-American candidate. No evidence, apart from the fact that he had campaigned hard there and lost, was proffered as a basis for this question.

By contrast, NPR previously had called several races (Illinois, Georgia, etc.) for Obama. None of the commentators raised a question as to whether votes for Obama in these states reflected a reluctance of voters to vote for a female candidate. For better or worse, race and gender are obviously on the minds of many voters in the Democratic party. However, what I notice in the media is a bit of overeagerness to attribute lack of support for Obama -- in any context -- to latent racism, and a tendency to portray lack of support for Clinton -- in any context -- as something that is entirely personal to her, without much analysis of the extent to which voters' attitudes about her reflect persistent sexism. (Ruth Marcus is of course an exception to this rule.) Any comment?

Ruth Marcus: I think anyone who has covered national politics has to be aware of the problems faced by African American candidates in terms of an unacknowledged but persistent unwillingness of white voters to support them; I think this is a bigger problem than for female candidates. At the same time, I think it's almost always a mistake to attribute results directly to such causes -- and especially in a state like Massachusetts which, after all, has an African American governor who supported Sen. Obama.

Posted 10:45 p.m., 2.5.2008

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To Richard Viguerie: What do you think would be better for the country for the next four years: a GOP-controlled congress with a Democratic president, or a Democrat-controlled Congress with a Republican president?

Richard Viguerie: It depends on who the Republican president is; if they are going to govern as a Big Republican President as Bush has, it will be a disaster for the American people.

Conservatives' challenge is not to elect a Republican President and Republican Congress, but to elect a Conservative President and a Conservative Congress, a combination we have not had in my lifetime.

Posted 10:45 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Austin, Texas: Mr. Viguerie, why do so many prominent conservatives hate John McCain so much?

Richard Viguerie: I wasn't aware that conservatives hated John McCain. McCain gratuitously, for more than ten years, has picked fights with conservatives; he almost seems to relish rubbing the conservatives nose in the dirt, just as Nelson Rockefeller did in the '50s and '60s.

While conservatives were not able nominate and elect their favorites to the White House in that period of time, they were able to deny Rockefeller what he wanted most. It may be that McCain will suffer the same fate.

Posted 10:45 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Huckabee as veep?: Wouldn't he be poison for the GOP in a general election? In exchange for solidifying the evangelical turnout, he effectively would seal the GOP's identity as the "15th Century Party." Are there that many women in America who would want someone who felt they should be "in servitude" to their husbands/partners? I mean, we're fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, last I checked. Would burqas become all the rage here?

Ruth Marcus: Sorry, but I really think that's unfair to Huckabee. You don't see his wife in a burqa, and he can speak very well to the economic anxiety of ordinary voters.

Robert G. Kaiser: Apart from your silly Taliban comparison, though, you're on to something. Republicans have a dilemma -- reach out to the middle? Or cultivate, again, the base? The base has shrunk; that's a losing tactic in my opinion.

Posted 10:42 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Lorton, Va.: I'm used to presidential candidates being decided by the time I get to vote in the primary. My John Edwards vote last time was inconsequential. Might I get to influence something with my vote this time?

Ruth Marcus: Not to make you too nervous, but yes. Everyone will be watching Virginia because the Democrats have such high hopes that they can turn it a bluer shade of purple.

Robert G. Kaiser: Even the District has a meaningful vote.

Posted 10:39 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Los Angeles: Mr. Kaiser, looking at numbers coming out of Arizona and Utah (on washingtonpost.com), Edwards appears to have received more than 11 percent of the vote, despite having dropped out of the race. Does this hurt Clinton or Obama more? Where do you think that would have gone? What is the logic behind a vote for a candidate is who no longer viable? Thanks!

Robert G. Kaiser: You have to look at the vote totals; it's two percent of the vote in Utah that you're seeing, and 23 percent in Arizona. Patience!

Posted 10:38 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Very funny, Ms. Marcus: "It's that old saying, as American Samoa goes, so goes Guam." Made me laugh.

Ruth Marcus: Good, then I've earned my pay tonight!

Posted 10:38 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Bridgewater, Mass.:"I think citizens from other nations, like myself, should be allowed to 'side-vote,' so as to make clear their preferred candidate. Are we not all Americans?

"Robert G. Kaiser: No you're not. Sorry!"

On the other hand, Americans know how the rest of the world has been viewing our country for the past seven years and many wish to change this. So indirectly your opinion is being considered.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

Posted 10:37 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Hazlet, N.J.: What are the chances of a McCain-Lieberman ticket?

Robert G. Kaiser: Remote, I'd say.

Posted 10:36 p.m., 2.5.2008

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The manufactured racial question: I'm really shaking my head as I listen to serious news outlets tackle the burning question "can the African American candidate get white votes?" This question suddenly "arose" in the lead-up to and aftermath of South Carolina, fed in no small part by the Clinton Meme Machine. The media pathetically bit the bait, seemingly oblivious that the two "focus groups" we had already had, called the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary (Obama did alright in these two all-white venues, did he not?). Stunningly, Obama is doing alright tonight among whites (who'd a thunk it?). And now my question: Do you think the woman candidate, Sen. Whatzername, can expand her narrow constituency beyond that of older white women? (See how silly it gets?)

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

Posted 10:36 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Can either of you speak to any particular issues that have motivated the voters in any of the states tonight?

Ruth Marcus: In terms of issues, Republican voters seemed to be focusing on the economy, immigration, Iraq and terrorism, in that order. Democratic voters were even more heavily focused on the economy and Iraq with health care also drawing a lot of attention.

Richard Viguerie: It's interesting that McCain started the 2008 caucuses and primaries getting about a third of the Republican vote ... and with all the endorsements and very favorable media attention, he still stuck at a third of the Republican vote.

Posted 10:35 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Savage: Richard Viguerie, the last time a Republican was constitutionally retired was 1988. That year the Democrats were ahead in the polls coming out of the conventions, but lost on what many people consider unimportant but highly symbolic issues like Willie Horton and the Pledge of Allegiance. Does the fact that Clinton and Obama have relatively short legislative records make them tougher opponents to vilify?

Richard Viguerie: Remember that on Willie Horton, the issue came to national prominence because Al Gore brought it up in the primaries.

Republicans won the election that year because they were able to change the focus of the election from Dukakis's issue of "competence" to ideas and issues, and by November of 1988 the voters had decided they wanted, in essence, a third Reagan term.

Posted 10:35 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Fort Lee, N.J.: Good news everybody! After tonight, no more nasty messages from Ron Paul supporters! But seriously, they are reporting that Clinton has an 80-delegate lead tonight, and that's without California, which apparently voted early before the Obama surge. I think she's going to claim that she has the momentum back tonight, and it's quite a defensible position.

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, but Obama seems to have won Connecticut, he won Delaware and Utah (both seen as very close before today), he won huge in Georgia and Illinois -- I'm just trying to point out that, as I've said before, both Democrats have plenty to boast about tonight. Personally, I'm most interested in California, which we won't have until tomorrow. I'm particularly interested in whether there's a significant difference between votes cast by mail before today (roughly half the total) and those cast today. If either Obama or Clinton has a big advantage among voters who cast ballots today, that could be significant, momentum-wise.

Posted 10:35 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Austin, Texas: If the Republican race gets decided tonight and the Democratic race remains undecided until April or later, which party will benefit? On one hand, McCain gets a few extra months of exposure as the sole presidential nominee. On the other hand, the Obama/Clinton battle might become the big story. What do you think?

Ruth Marcus: This is a really interesting question. The answer depends, I think, on how long the Democratic race would go on for and how nasty it would get. McCain could use the time to replenish his coffers. On balance, the longer the Democratic race goes on, probably the better it is for him, because if it goes long it probably will get nastier as time goes on.

Posted 10:33 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Carmel, N.Y.: I hear a lot more talk from ordinary people about a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket than I do from the media, but if this thing is going to drag on for a few more weeks, doesn't the impossible start to become conceivable? If the delegates roughly were split between the two tonight, wouldn't the drumbeat start?

Ruth Marcus: I find it hard to imagine, for a number of reasons: I'm not sure either one would be comfortable as the number two, or would want the opponent as the number two -- especially because there's a number three, President Clinton, in the picture.

Robert G. Kaiser: I have already said something similar. I'm with Ruth!

Posted 10:33 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: About the Tennessee vote, indirectly at least: Can I say how proud of my rural Tennessee parents? My 68-year-old mother -- a former debutante from the Mississippi Delta, voted for Obama -- and my 70-year-old father from the palmetto fields of northern Florida voted for Clinton today. Neither could be dissuaded from their preferences, and because of a variety of factors they had to really work to get to the polls at all! (We'll ignore the whole "their votes canceled each other out" factor.)

And from what I could tell when I was down there at Christmas, most of their expanded social set -- middle-aged to elderly white professionals and retirees, all raised in the Jim Crow South or in the Civil Rights Movement decades -- were planning on voting along similar lines. All were excited about Obama, even if they planned to vote for Clinton, and none were planning on voting for a Republican candidate. I'm not sure what this means in the greater scheme of things, but even I found it surprising, and I'm not exactly a Yankee outside observer/pundit.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

Posted 10:32 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Are you guys in a position to parse the numbers in Connecticut and New Jersey as far as which districts are reporting and which strongholds for one candidate or the other are still out?

Robert G. Kaiser: No, but we do think Obama will win Connecticut, while Clinton will get New Jersey.

Posted 10:31 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Mr. Kaiser -- tonight I feel so old. I remember as a boy (just five years old) watching my father follow the Truman-Dewey returns over the radio. He was crestfallen when he went to bed, he had so hoped that Dewey could end Democratic rule. Now, tonight, I'm following returns using a technology that even Dick Tracy didn't imagine back in 1948.

Like you, I hope that young people are beginning to appreciate their right to vote, when I think of the people who were murdered in this country less than 50 years ago just because they were fighting for this basic right! Thanks for the commentary. I hope that you get paid extra for this service. (And, no, I'm not related to you.)

Robert G. Kaiser: I know you're not related to me, because in the Kaiser family in 1948, Harry Truman was a hero. You and I are the same age.

One of the rewards of living this long is to realize that the world does change -- a lot.

Posted 10:31 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Elmwood Park, N.J.: You know, Mr. Viguerie, you wouldn't be getting stuck with this flip-flopping nominee that you all plainly hate if we had public funding of elections! Sorry, that was a cheap shot.

Richard Viguerie: Nothing cheap about costing the taxpayers billions of dollars. But I agree that the current campaign financing system is broken.

Under the current constraints on raising money, neither Goldwater nor McGovern could have gotten nominated. They each relied, at first, on a few big donors. We should allow unlimited contributions, with full disclosure ... instead of the current system, which favors wealthy candidates who can "self-finance." (That's why the Senate is turning into a millionaire's club.)

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a really interesting comment from the man who, more than any other, found a way to finance conservative campaigns in the late '70s and '80s (when Mr. Viguerie became a direct-mail wizard).

Posted 10:29 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Atlanta: Re: Greater turnout for Democratic primaries -- for what it's worth, I voted for Obama today, but likely would vote Republican in November. I'm an anyone-but-Clinton voter, and suspect there are more people like me.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 10:28 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Vienna, Va.: Mr. Kaiser, a question about exit polls -- I see and hear various news outlets referring to anecdotal information that "exit polls" picked up, but at this point I don't see comprehensive exit poll data. Is there such a thing? What does it look like? Available only to subscribers (e.g. news outlets that then add value by analyzing the information for us)? Thanks for any clarification you can offer.

Robert G. Kaiser: We will print final information when we have it, which won't be tonight. We have printed it often in the past.

Posted 10:28 p.m., 2.5.2008

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New York: Any ideas on total turnout today? According to CNN numbers, in Nassau County, N.Y. -- where I am originally from -- total turnout was about 20,000 people out of a population of more than a million. That would be extremely low.

Robert G. Kaiser: No hard facts yet, sorry.

Posted 10:26 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Salt Lake City: Mr. Kaiser, thanks as always for this late night chat (not so late for this westward junkie). More of a comment than a question -- I was undecided for a long time, and in the past few weeks, decided for Obama. Why? In part because he asked for my vote -- visited, set up an office, and set up a 50-state strategy (I came of age in Massachusetts, and my first introduction to politics was in reading Tip O'Neill's autobiography, and his discussion of asking for your vote came back to me in recent weeks). Having lived in the bluest of states (Massachusetts) before the reddest of states (Utah), I'm used to being ignored. Regardless of the outcome of the primaries, I hope Obama's 50-state strategy has an impact on the Democratic Party going forward.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the post.

Posted 10:26 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Plymouth, Minn.: Do you think the invisible hand of Karl Rove is, well, visible in any of the Republican candidates' primary stratagems to date?

Richard Viguerie: That is a liberal nightmare fantasy bug-a-boo; perhaps in some future presidential election, but not in 2008

Robert G. Kaiser: What would Rove's advice be this time around, I wonder? Hard to imagine it.

Posted 10:25 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Oakton, Va.: Wouldn't McCain-Huckabee unite the national security and social conservatives? And I am amazed that the Virginia primary will actually matter for once. (Go Obama! Fired up and ready to vote!)

Ruth Marcus: Good point--and where are the economic conservatives going to go? McCain was wrong from their point of view on tax cuts, but he's promising to keep them now.

As to the Potomac primary, not only Virginia will matter, but Maryland and DC too. I'm pretty excited about covering a race in my backyard for a change.

Robert G. Kaiser: We are going to have some fun around here for the next week. Our D.C.-area primaries really will matter.

Posted 10:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: I think my wife has a crush on Obama because he's so handsome. Is that a good enough reason for me to not vote for him?

Ruth Marcus: I think my husband would tell you yes. I suspect you can come up with a better reason, at least for public consumption!

Posted 10:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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So, Mr. Viguerie: You sound like you don't think you can win. Do you personally prefer a principled-but-doomed candidacy (e.g. Goldwater) to realign the Republican base?

Richard Viguerie: You never want to lose. The election loss of 1976 to Carter was tough, but there would not have been a Ronald Reagan presidency if Gerald Ford had won. If was tough to lose to the Clintons in 1992, but there would never have been a Republican Congress elected in 1994 if Bush had been re-elected in 1992.

Posted 10:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Crestwood, N.Y.: I think we non-Republicans didn't appreciate what a disaster the "macaca" incident was for your party: Allen was your front-runner, wasn't he? It's sort of like Gary Hart, but far worse. There's no real replacement in the eyes of the right, and the void has not been filled.

Richard Viguerie: I think you said it fairly well. George Allen did suck up most of the conservative oxygen, and when he was in November 2006 no one stepped up to replace him.

Robert G. Kaiser: Nothing to add here. Richard is the expert.

Posted 10:23 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Bethesda, Md.: I know that you don't want to speculate, but could you answer this one question for me? Say Clinton and McCain or Obama and McCain won the primaries. Would McCain have a better chance to beat either of them?

Ruth Marcus: There are some polls showing that Sen. Obama runs slightly better than Sen. Clinton against Sen. McCain -- and boy, those are a lot of senators, given the bad track record of senators running for president.

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm with Ruth.

Posted 10:23 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: McCain campaigned hard and has relied heavily on the support of moderate Republicans and independents in Northeastern states. Is there any chance for McCain to compete in, or even win, any New England states in a general election? Would McCain have a chance in California? If not, would his focus and affinity for these liberal/moderate states in the primary season hurt him in traditionally Republican states down South?

Robert G. Kaiser: You've put your finger on one of the big Republican problems this year.

Posted 10:22 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Frostburg, Md.: Do you think Ralph Nader will/can run again to throw a wrench in the works?

Robert G. Kaiser: I was startled to see a story the other day that he is considering it.

Posted 10:21 p.m., 2.5.2008

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American Samoa: American Samoa does not seem to appear on your washingtonpost.com maps. Wassup?

washingtonpost.com: From washingtonpost.com assistant managing editor Russ Walker: "No one is feeding data from American Samoa -- not AP, and not the American Samoan government."

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's your answer...

Posted 10:21 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: There's been lots of talk about Romney trying to unify the tripod of social, economic, and national security conservatives. In percentage terms, how big would you say each of those wings of the party are? I would think the social conservatives are the biggest, but they seem powerless to stop McCain's march to the nomination.

Richard Viguerie: First of all, it is important to remember that McCain is averaging about one-third of the Republican vote, so about two-thirds of the voters are opposed to his nomination. Clearly the most potent of the elements of the electoral coalition is the social issues conservatives. When I started in politics in the early '60s, there only were two legs of the Republican stool, the national security (anti-communism) and economic issues (smaller government) conservatives. That usually would translate into around 45 percent of the vote, seldom 51 percent ... then in the late 1970s when we added the third leg of that stool, Republicans began to get 51 percent, 53 percent, 55 percent of the vote.

Posted 10:20 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Carmel, Ind.: A "Democrat" but I see that while Romney is getting killed, Huckabee is doing well in few Southern states. Maybe the last nail has not been cemented in his coffin?

Robert G. Kaiser: That coffin is definitely still open! It may not be a coffin. Stay tuned.

Posted 10:20 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Eagan, Minn.: Democratic caucuses were overwhelmed by the turnout. At my high school site, cars backed up for blocks trying to get in, even an hour and a half after the caucuses opened. Unfortunately some people gave up after long waits, but on the positive side, a huge number of high school and college kids helping to operate the caucuses. The energy was unbelievable. Minnesota's progressive tradition is showing -- early returns show Obama quite far ahead over Sen. Clinton. What a night.

Robert G. Kaiser: Many thanks for this. We'd love to hear from others who voted today or took part in a caucus.

Posted 10:19 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Potomac Falls, Va.: Why is The Washington Post and other media outlets continuing to count the previous primaries in Florida and Michigan (and the accompanying delegates) as "wins" for Hillary Clinton, when all candidates agreed beforehand that those delegates would not be seated (i.e. counted) at the Democratic Convention?

Robert G. Kaiser: We don't.

Posted 10:18 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Bronx, N.Y.: Ms. Marcus, I don't buy the media line that the Democrats are shaking in their boots at the prospect of running against McCain. He'll get destroyed with his flip-flopping positions at the debates, his 100 years of war and other careless remarks, and the outright hostility that he generates from conservatives. And man, is he ever old. The GOP is going to stay home in droves, and if you think that Clinton hatred is going to cure all their ills, keep dreaming: worked like a charm in 1992 and 1996, didn't it? They need something to vote for, not just vote against.

Ruth Marcus: I think the answer is: compared to what? Most of the Democrats I've talked to are more concerned about running against McCain than against the other Republican contenders because of his ability to draw independents, and his maverick image. Certainly, I think we'll hear a lot about 100 years of war, and there are downsides to a McCain candidacy from a GOP point of view as well.

Posted 10:18 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Silver Spring, Md.: Huckabee just took a swipe at Romney, saying it is a two-man race ... what do you think are the chances Romney will drop out if he does as dismally as it looks like he will?

Robert G. Kaiser: He has to decide how much of his own money to spend -- that's really the only open question in my mind.

Posted 10:18 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Chicago: I want to focus on this question of winning red in blue states, or vice versa. If a candidate -- McCain or Obama, as is the case tonight -- wins in states where their party traditionally loses, couldn't that mean they're a good (or better) bet to put those states back into play in the general? Why is it a bad thing for McCain to win in New York, which might vote for him in the general, rather than Mississippi, which almost certainly will?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, can you imagine a Republican -- any Republican -- carrying New York State in 2008? I cannot. Is that an answer to your question?

Posted 10:17 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Given the proportional breakdown, how soon will we know how the delegates are apportioned for the Democrats? Will that information be available tonight, or tomorrow?

Robert G. Kaiser: Tomorrow at the soonest.

Posted 10:16 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Guam: Re: American Samoa -- ABC News reports American Samoa for Clinton at 57 percent, or two delegates, with Obama taking the remainder for one delegate. ABC also has the dates for primaries on Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. The Guam Democratic caucuses are on May 3, with eight delegates up for grabs -- and for the first time in my lifetime, it looks like they may mean something if the race stays close. It's an exciting time.

Ruth Marcus: It's that old saying, as American Samoa goes, so goes Guam.

Wow, a race where little things like that matter, it reminds me of the days after the 2000 election when I could name all the counties in Florida.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks!

Posted 10:16 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Winston-Salem, N.C.: Hi Richard, glad to hear your voice here. What do you and Robert think about Missouri at this point? The classic bellwether, it seems torn on both sides.

Robert G. Kaiser: The exit poll says Missouri is much closer on the Democratic side than the raw vote now available (showing a clear Clinton lead) suggests. Similarly, the exit poll at 9:30 p.m. gave McCain a clear lead, though Huckabee is ahead in the raw vote. So I will beg off interpreting, and wait for more results.

Posted 10:15 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Mr. Viguerie, how do you account for the lack of "true" conservatives in this race capable of uniting the Reagan coalition? There doesn't exactly seem to be a lack of them in Congress or state houses across the country.

Richard Viguerie: Excellent question! The number one need conservatives have had in all my 45 years in national politics is leadership. Too many conservatives who should be leading the conservative movement have drunk deeply of the Republican Kool-Aid, and for conservatives to come to power in America we will need to raise up a whole new generation of conservative leaders.

Posted 10:13 p.m., 2.5.2008

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To Mr. Viguerie: You said that you can't see a Republican candidate who would unite the three necessary parts of the party to win, but isn't it quite likely that the Democrats will do that for the GOP? If they nominate Hillary, I think that the GOP will rally around our eventual nominee just to beat her. Your thoughts?

Richard Viguerie: As I said earlier tonight, every time the conservatives are unhappy with the Republican nominee, bad things happen to the Republican Party, with no exception. This includes 1948, 1960, 1976, 1992, 1998 and 2006.

Posted 10:13 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Columbus, Ohio: What do you make of the fact that Obama seems to be racking up huge leads in Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota, which are very "white" (and red) states? And why would Kansas look so different from Oklahoma?

Robert G. Kaiser: This was the Obama campaign's plan for tonight. Remember, Obama's mother was a Kansan; he campaigned in his grandfather's hometown recently.

Posted 10:13 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Fairfax, Va.: If Huckabee continues to show well tonight and McCain does come out of tonight as the presumptive nominee, what your thoughts about McCain possibly choosing Huckabee as running mate to assuage religious and social conservatives in the Republican Party? David Broder actually suggested such a ticket in one of his columns recently.

washingtonpost.com: A Matchup Starts to Take Shape (Post, Jan. 31)

Robert G. Kaiser: Many have suggested this. It would please the Republican base. Would it help McCain win in November? I doubt it.

Posted 10:11 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Bangor, Maine: Ruth Marcus -- I really enjoyed your column on discussing Jamie Lynn Spears with your daughters.

washingtonpost.com: Learning From Jamie Lynn and Juno (Post, Dec. 26)

Ruth Marcus: Thanks so much. I hadn't intended to write a column that week, but it was such a rich topic -- almost as interesting as politics!

Posted 10:10 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Riverdale, N.Y.: My question is for Mr. Viguerie when he arrives: What are the chances for a protest third-party conservative candidate if McCain wins the nomination?

Richard Viguerie: Zero. It is too late to make a serious run. Far better for conservatives to focus on the next four to eight years. In my lifetime, conservatives took  over the party three time: Goldwater in 1964, Reagan in 1980 and the Gingrich Revolution in 1994. Conservatives can govern America for the first time in my lifetime, but it will not be in 2008

Posted 10:09 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Anonymous: We probably should mention Huckabee is having a pretty decent night. Won his home state, won West Virginia with a little help, winning in Georgia, Missouri and now Alabama. Not too shabby for somebody on a shoe-string budget!

Ruth Marcus: I think Mike Huckabee might have an argument that he's the best businessman in the race -- he has won the most delegates with the least money.

Posted 10:05 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: What's your general assessment of the results so far, and what do you think the Democratic candidates are looking for at this point tonight?

Ruth Marcus: Delegates, delegates, delegates. And to spin whatever states they win as hugely significant, even though it's clear at this point that this is a delegate hunt.

Richard Viguerie: For Republicans, McCain consistently is failing to carry a majority of Republican votes, which bodes ill for November

Posted 10:03 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Austin, Texas: Apparently a lot more people are voting in Democratic primaries than in the past. This would seem to be good news for Democrats as far as the general election. Do you agree?

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes.

Ruth Marcus: Great news for Democrats. But John McCain as the Republican nominee also makes them nervous because of his appeal to independents.

Richard Viguerie: I agree -- conservatives have been saying for years that because of the betrayal of conservative principles by President Bush, they have taken the heart, soul, passion and energy out of the grassroots conservatives. Some Washington Republicans are fond of saying conservatives will be there on Election Day in November because the establishment Republicans will frighten them with the thought of a Democrat winning. But in the past 60 years bad things have happened to the Republican Party whenever conservatives weren't enthusiastic about the Republican nominee.

Posted 10:03 p.m., 2.5.2008

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To Mr. Viguerie: Considering the unpopularity of the incumbent administration, what's your "best realistic case" scenario of who you'd want to be the nominee, but could win?

Richard Viguerie: At this point in time I do not see any Republican who can unite all three parts of the Republican coalition to win (economic, social and national defense).

Posted 9:56 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: And we are now joined by conservative "funding father" Richard Viguerie, author of several books, most recently "Conservatives Betrayed: How the Republican Party Hijacked the Conservative Cause."

Posted 9:54 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Berlin: What is the significance of lower Republican primary participation?

Robert G. Kaiser: It reflects lower Republican enthusiasm for their candidates, and lower Republican expectations for November. We see this in polls and in reporting as well.

Posted 9:54 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Yonkers, N.Y.: It has been pointed out on TV that McCain is winning primaries in a lot of states where the GOP has no chance in November. Looks like a GOP disaster of McGovern-like proportions on the way to me. If there's a recession, it will be even worse. Will someone be a dear and add up all of the votes cast today for Democrats and those cast for Republicans? As you know, even in the blood-red state of South Carolina, the Democratic totals were alarmingly large compared to the GOP's. For the Bush party, I see a bad moon rising; I see trouble on the way.

Robert G. Kaiser: I've referred in earlier chats to a fascinating study released months ago by the Pew Center for the People and the Press analyzing the underlying political context for this presidential year. It showed that Democrats enjoy numerous advantages. One of the most basic is the fact that the percentage of voters who say they are Republicans or lean Republican is lower today than it has been for many years.

This does not mean a Democratic victory is inevitable in November. It does mean that the Republican faces a difficult playing field.

Posted 9:53 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Bangor, Maine: Gov. Huckabee seems to be doing better than I expected. Is that your assessment as well, and if so, what does that tell you about the Republican voters in the Southern and Border states?

Ruth Marcus: Hi, this is Ruth Marcus, just entering the discussion. I think Mike Huckabee is, once again, the surprise interesting story of the night. He is doing very well not only among evangelical voters, but also self-described conservatives. He remains an interesting wild card.

Robert G. Kaiser: You know, the Republican Party has changed profoundly in the past generation. It is now more Southern, more evangelical, and much less diverse than it was when Richard Nixon was president, say. I long have thought that non-Republicans have paid too little attention to these changes. Look at the leadership in Congress in recent times, for example -- John Boehner is the only non-Sun Belt leader in a long time.

As I've written here on other occasions, I think the Reagan-era Republican coalition (Southern Christians, country club business Republicans, "national security" hard-line Republicans, suburban moms, etc.) is crumbling. I have no idea what will happen later this year.

Posted 9:52 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: We now are joined by Washington Post columnist and editorial writer Ruth Marcus.

Posted 9:49 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Re: Predictions: Oh, I meant kind of like an informal pool type thing, like what lots of folks do for March Madness.

Robert G. Kaiser: Nope.

Posted 9:47 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Palo Alto, Calif.: Where I really want things to wind up is Clinton/Obama. Is there any reasonable chance of that happening?

Robert G. Kaiser: Doubt it, but who knows. No one foresaw Kennedy-Johnson, I can tell you.

Posted 9:47 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Different Ann Arbor, Mich.: Hi there from Ann Arbor! What do you think George W. Bush is doing tonight? Ding dong...

Robert G. Kaiser: Who?

Posted 9:46 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Twin Cities, Minn.: Looks like Ms. Clinton will carry New York and New Jersey. I think they are more delegate-rich than Colorado or Delaware. Why are the latter two states' close calls considered more important? Is it because Ms. Clinton was expected to win them easily?

Robert G. Kaiser: Who considers them "more important"?

Posted 9:46 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Anonymous: All right, let's get the speculation going on potential vice presidents for John McCain. Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota governor) and John Thune (South Dakota U.S. senator) help him with either the economic or social conservatives; who else is out there?

Robert G. Kaiser: You may speculate all you like, but you won't enlist me this early in the game.

Posted 9:44 p.m., 2.5.2008

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California: The paper ballot on which I voted listed eight (?) candidates, most of whom are no longer in the race. This struck a sour note to me. I understand that paper ballots must be printed with enough time to distribute them, and that perhaps this is not the most egregious of election "irregularities," but it still seems odd at best. What happens to votes that go to candidates-no-more?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't know the California rules, but I doubt many votes will be cast for the noncandidates.

Posted 9:44 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: So does The Post's newsroom have any predictions about who wins where? Any reporter particularly good at making predictions?

Robert G. Kaiser: No, and it's a helpful question for which I thank you. We actually avoid making predictions. We have style rules that forbid predictive phraseology in our stories, things like "is certain to..." or "is likely to..." are banned. We find it very challenging to try to figure out what has happened; we leave what will happen to the gods.

Posted 9:43 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: I have alternate theory on the Kennedy endorsement: I tend to see him as a national name rather than state-specific. In other words, Massachusetts is not a stunner, but he may have had more of an "accelerated momentum" effect nationally for Obama. Your thoughts?

Robert G. Kaiser: Could be.

Posted 9:42 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Philadelphia: So far, Hillary is doing a little better than the exit polls predicted -- she has won Massachusetts and New Jersey pretty handily after they were supposed to be "too close-to-call." What gives?

Robert G. Kaiser: Exit polls are imperfect, as I have said many times. But so are these partial vote counts. Again, patience!

Posted 9:41 p.m., 2.5.2008

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I'm confused: I'm watching MSNBC and they're saying the exit polls look very good for Obama: Only 51 percent to 44 percent among whites for Clinton, 80 percent of blacks for Obama, and he also is closing the gap among women. But he has lost Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. How and where is this boost showing up?

Robert G. Kaiser: Everywhere. Obama is losing very well, so to speak, in many states. That is to say, he is winning a lot of delegates even in states he isn't winning. And in some -- Georgia and Illinois specifically -- he is winning blowouts that will be good for his delegate count.

Posted 9:40 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Trenton, N.J.: We've heard a lot of talk about the gender gap, and about Latinos going for Clinton and African Americans going for Obama. Old news. Will the exit polls inform us about other demographics in the Democratic primary, such as union members, LGBT or veterans? Seems like in states like California, these folks have an impact too.

Robert G. Kaiser: The poll doesn't have union households. It does divide voters by gender, income, race and age.

Posted 9:39 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Brisbane, Australia: Early reports reaching here indicates that large numbers of young educated voters are turning out -- significantly more than in past elections. Does this correlate with your exit polls? And is it likely to translate into similar voter turnout in November? It's good to see my American friends actually taking advantage of their democratic rights.

Robert G. Kaiser: Sorry, I don't have comparative numbers -- but as I've said already, we have a lot more interest than normal in this race, especially on the Democratic side, and it does include a lot of young people.

Posted 9:38 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus and conservative fundraiser and author Richard Viguerie are expected to join the discussion at 9:45 p.m.

Posted 9:37 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Los Angeles: Thanks for your time and incisive analysis. Seems to me the longer Obama can hang around in the primary race, the better his chances. I heard some analysis that the more people get to know him the higher his poll numbers go up. Hillary, meanwhile is well-known, and her numbers don't budge. With a month or two worth of campaigning ahead and oodles of money to get his message out, I think Barack has a decent shot even if he doesn't shine tonight? Thoughts?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. Your analysis is certainly respectable.

Posted 9:37 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Austin, Texas: At this point it looks likely that both Clinton and Obama will be very much alive and ready to keep fighting after tonight. When do you think we'll have a good idea who the Democratic nominee is going to be?

Robert G. Kaiser: Too soon to know, sorry. Lots of excitement ahead. Lots of slogging, too.

Posted 9:36 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Austin, Texas: Assuming McCain gets the nomination, do you think he eventually may choose Schwarzenegger as vice president? Is that even allowed? (Schwarzenegger wasn't born in the U.S.) One downside: The two names wouldn't fit on a bumper sticker...

Robert G. Kaiser: The Constitution won't let Arnold run, sorry.

Posted 9:36 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: How can AP project Huckabee to win Alabama when he's down five points and 23 percent of the vote is in?

Robert G. Kaiser: Can't speak for AP's decision-making process. The Post didn't buy the Alabama Republican exit poll, so I can't help you with it either. I'm sorry.

Posted 9:36 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Americans are now exercising their power to decide their preferred candidate. By doing so they are influencing the fate and direction of the U.S. and, while at it, the whole world. This is a heavy burden for the Americans alone. I think citizens from other nations, like myself, should be allowed to "side-vote," so as to make clear their preferred candidate. Are we not all Americans?

Robert G. Kaiser: No you're not. Sorry!

Posted 9:34 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Annapolis, Md.: "Our coverage does not 'beat up' or build up candidates--it's not what we do." Yes, Mr. Kaiser, and we all know you are a registered independent with no liberal tendencies. Thanks for sharing.

Robert G. Kaiser: I am a registered independent, as I think you can confirm from the District of Columbia board of elections. And no, we are not ideological in this newsroom. I know this is hard for an ideological person to accept, but it is true. I have worked in this room for four decades, and I can assure you, we do not sit around here spouting liberal thoughts. We like to find out what is going on -- that's our mission.

Posted 9:34 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Los Angeles: Okay, fair enough: What in your opinion makes Connecticut Democrats different from their neighbors?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well they aren't that different. New Jersey and Connecticut are both very close; she may win New Jersey, he may win Connecticut, but they'll both get delegates from both.

Posted 9:32 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: West Virginia: Huckabee Wins (Post, Feb. 5)

Posted 9:29 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Fayetteville, N.C.: Bob, in the GOP West Virginia closed convention, it seems that we had an old-fashioned backroom deal with Huckabee, McCain and Paul joining forces against Romney on the first and second ballots. It has been reported that the deal gave Paul three delegates, but everyone seems to be reporting that Huckabee got all 18 delegates. Do you know if the Huckabee campaign has confirmed that Paul actually has those three delegates? And do you think Paul will run as a third-party candidate? Thanks.

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's a story about the situation in West Virginia. I have no further info on it myself, sorry.

Posted 9:28 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Rebuttal on InTrade: Markets like InTrade are great synthesizers of available information, but have no particular ability to predict the future, even the near future, especially in primaries when there are lots of undecided voters. The New Hampshire Democratic primary is a good example of this -- Obama was at 70 percent until the actual results started showing signs of Clinton's surprise victory. If they had any predictive power, a shift toward Clinton would have happened several hours or a day before the result. In just the past few hours, Obama has gone up 14 points, from 46 to 60, and back down to 50, presumably all based on exit polls. These trading markets are fun, but I don't think they are particularly useful in primaries like this one.

Robert G. Kaiser: Very useful thank you.

Posted 9:25 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Vienna, Va.: There's a quarter of the vote in, and Hillary is 14 points ahead in New Jersey. Those neck-and-neck exit polls off a little bit?

Robert G. Kaiser: Too soon to tell.

Posted 9:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Montreal: Hello U.S.! I follow the campaign very closely and wish that there would be such a long, long campaign in Canada! Congratulation for your terrific system. I am, however, baffled to see how Mrs. Clinton is beaten up by all the media, including your own newspaper. I could not conceive that she was such a bad person or politician that almost no one could write something positive about her. Frankly, I don't understand this assassination.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama seems to be saint, according to the U.S. media. Everything he did or does is positive or stimulating. Here also, I could not understand such adoration. Is he a saint or a human? Anyway, look at your own homepage: even though Mrs. Clinton currently is leading, you put a picture of Mr. Obama on the article! Is there any hope that the U.S. media would be more balanced in the future? Thanks.

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm sorry, but you've got to be more specific for me to take your generalizations seriously. The New York Times endorsed Clinton. The Post editorial page has been friendly to her also. Our coverage does not "beat up" or build up candidates -- it's not what we do.

Posted 9:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Los Angeles: Let me be more specific: Does this appear to be a substantive difference between Democrats in the Northeast and in the Mid-Atlantic?

Robert G. Kaiser: You've been specific, but you haven't been clear. Results in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic look quite similar. What do you have in mind?

Posted 9:22 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Arlington, Va.: First, thank you for doing these chats on major primary nights. Your insights are really fantastic, and I love how even-handed and rational you are. Here's my question: Is it likely that we won't know who won California (on the Democratic side) until the wee hours of the morning, or even later? Might we not know until 4 a.m. EST or around then, given all the paper ballots there? (P.S. Go Obama!)

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't expect to know the final California situation when I go to bed early tomorrow morning.

Posted 9:20 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Bob, you are my hero! So the second wave exit polls (posted by Drudge) have things cautiously looking good for Obama. Would you agree?

Robert G. Kaiser: Not a natural hero, I warn you. As I've said already, I think both sides can find comfort tonight. I think the Clinton people were fearful it was going to be a lot worse. But Obama does have a lot to feel good about.

Posted 9:19 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Boston: Remember that Hillary wasn't exactly hurting for support in Massachusetts -- Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Rep. Barney Frank both backed her. While neither one matches Ted Kennedy, I'd rather have either one than John Kerry (not the greatest grassroots politician) or Deval Patrick (who has been in office for only a year).

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 9:18 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Fairfax County, Va.: So after Sen. Clinton's speeches immediately following her South Carolina defeat -- in which she repeatedly pointed the way ahead to Super Tuesday, when we would hear from "22 states and American Samoa" -- the question of the hour is clear. Whither American Samoa? I see from the AP they have three delegates at stake, with a very early caucus time so that they won't be the last to report results. Though I'm an Obama supporter, I'm betting Clinton based on her name recognition -- and the fact she mentioned them, too. I'm also up for information from Puerto Rico, Guam and other territories, but am not aware when their primaries (if any) are held.

Robert G. Kaiser: No news from Samoa, where I'm not sure it's even today yet. (Yeah, it is, I know.)

Posted 9:16 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Alexandria, Va.: If McCain becomes the Republican nominee, then both political party candidates will be on record as condemning American use of the torture technique known as "waterboarding." Seeing as how former CIA Director Michael Hayden confirmed in testimony today that prisoners were subjected to waterboarding during CIA interrogation sessions, does the willingness to use the term "torture" by the next president present any new problems to those who used or approved of torture to interrogate prisoners? This honesty in language seems unprecedented in a presidential campaign; can we expect it to continue? Many thanks!

washingtonpost.com: U.S. Acknowledges Use of Waterboarding (AP, Feb. 5)

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for your post. I'm not sure how unprecedented it is to have candidates who call things by their real name.

Posted 9:15 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Baltimore: Looks like Hillary Clinton will win Massachusetts. Weeping in Hyannis?

Robert G. Kaiser: She was way, way ahead in Massachusetts before the past two weeks. No weeping.

Posted 9:14 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Los Angeles: What do you make of Delaware and Connecticut leaning toward Obama at this time?

Robert G. Kaiser: Patience! We'll have real results quite soon.

Posted 9:13 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Robert, if there is no clear winner tonight for the Democrats, who does it hurt more?

Robert G. Kaiser: Dealt with this earlier, and down below you'll see a link to a David Broder column of Jan. 23 in which he made the case that Obama is better off the longer this goes on. I'm not sure he's right, but he knows more politics than I do!

Posted 9:13 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Jacksonville, Fla.: I'm a lifelong Republican, but count me as shocked that Barack Obama is even taking Hillary Clinton to the wire for this nomination. Where do you see him going after this?

Robert G. Kaiser: To the finish line.

Posted 9:12 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Man, what does it say about the political clout of Kennedy, Kerry and Patrick that all three endorsed Obama but couldn't help him carry Massachusetts?

Robert G. Kaiser: It's a good reminder that endorsements don't move votes -- but they sometimes can alter attitudes. I'd argue that Sen. Kennedy gave Obama significant credibility with his endorsement, even in the minds of people who voted for Clinton anyhow. Just a hunch.

Have you ever cast a vote on the basis of someone's endorsement? I haven't.

Posted 9:07 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Re: InTrade's record: In the 2004 general election, the market there accurately called every single state the night beforehand (closing price was more than 50 percent for the candidate who captured it the next day). Of course we've still got a ways to go after today, and developments can change those markets. Just noting a momentum shift to Obama.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for that. I hope it's accurate!

Posted 9:02 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Winston-Salem, N.C.: Exit poll numbers look extremely close in some states that were projected for Hillary. What is the "buzz" right now -- does this look like a big Obama night, and if so, how big?

Robert G. Kaiser: My sense is that both candidates will have things to be pleased about tonight. At the moment, it's hard to see a clear advantage for either one.

Posted 9:02 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Assuming Romney does not do well tonight and loses the nomination eventually, what kind of political future does he have? He can't go back to Massachusetts and win anything, because of his more conservative persona. He's not going to get vice president because he doesn't bring a state with him (though maybe Michigan?), and McCain isn't exactly fond of him.

Robert G. Kaiser: Hard to see any political future for Mitt if he loses the nomination. What would he do?

Posted 9:01 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Toronto: Up in Canada, there's also a lot of interest in these primaries too, no doubt because we're all affected by the outcome. My question: Do you have any sense of new constituencies entering this voting process? That is, has all the attention and focus on who can be the candidate of change also brought people who haven't normally voted into the process? If so, who might they be? And secondly, which candidates might be attracting them? Thanks!

Robert G. Kaiser: The young are turned on to this time, a big change. They favor Obama, but they are notoriously fickle and unreliable participants.

Posted 9:00 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: How much traction will Romney get out of his charges that McCain and Huckabee had a corrupt bargain in West Virginia, much like John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay did in 1824 to steal the presidency from Andrew Jackson?

Robert G. Kaiser: You've got to be kidding.

Posted 8:59 p.m., 2.5.2008

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McLean, Va.: What percentage of voters in the Georgia Democratic primary were African American?

Robert G. Kaiser: The latest exit poll numbers suggest African Americans constituted about half the electorate in Georgia, whites slightly less and Hispanics the rest.

Posted 8:59 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Cambridge, Mass.: I hear a lot of the pundits saying that Obama's ability to win some of the middle states indicates that he may be the better candidate to go up against the Republicans in November. Why is that so? If only Democrats are voting in the Democratic primary, then that doesn't really say anything about independents and Republicans, does it?

Robert G. Kaiser: In many states independents can vote in Democratic primaries -- California for example. The exit polls we have now show Obama beating Clinton among independents in Arizona, California, Georgia and Illinois, and running even in Massachusetts.

Posted 8:57 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Cambridge, Mass.: How are the Democrat contests for this weekend and the Beltway primaries looking? Any word on which way those states are leaning? Also, I'm a Democrat who would have a hard time voting for Clinton in November, but I also don't like any of the Republican candidates. If Clinton's the nominee, I may stay home. I've talked to a few other people who surprisingly feel the same way. Is there a trend of that at all?

Robert G. Kaiser: Obama's people think they are in good shape in the Beltway primaries, and Clinton's people don't dispute them so far, I think it is fair to say.

Do you really think the way you feel today is going to govern what you do in November? I don't know you, of course, but I doubt it.

Posted 8:55 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Watching the returns is fascinating because the two parties have such different rules -- the Democrats make everything proportional while the GOP are winner-take-all -- and the GOP weighs each state by how conservative they are (or at least it seems that way, with West Virginia getting more than three times as many delegates as the more-populous Massachusetts). Any thoughts on why there are such different rules? Has The Post written on this? I think it would be very interesting to discuss in depth.

Robert G. Kaiser: We have written about this; I'm sorry I don't have links for you right now. Both parties give "bonus" delegates to states that their candidate carried in the last election, which creates the distortion you are noticing.

Posted 8:54 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Mountain View, Calif.: Palo Alto has to be kidding. I've heard the "Obama has more press" argument from quite a few of my Clinton-backing friends. If you want to have that argument, there must be an acknowledgement that some people (not on message board) feel like the media anointed Clinton as the nominee long before the primary process, and Obama has been fighting against that since the beginning. For crying out loud, his main problem in these primaries is name recognition! And this is coming from an Edwards supporter.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

Posted 8:52 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Redwood City, Calif.: Do John Edwards's vice presidential chances increase with each Southern state Hillary takes? Especially given that we haven't had a non-Southern Democrat in the White House in 48 years?

Robert G. Kaiser: I doubt it. Among political pros, the feeling is widespread and strong that Edwards was a pretty ineffectual vice presidential candidate in 2004, and picking him would not be about "change" or "the future."

Posted 8:49 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Time Zone issue: I remember in past elections that there has been concern that calling certain states in the East for one candidate or another influences/suppresses turnover in the Western states (i.e. it's only 5:45 p.m. in California). Is that a concern tonight, or is this only kind-of-a-national-primary, one so diffuse that these calls are not relevant?

Robert G. Kaiser: Not relevant, I think.

Posted 8:48 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Chicago: One problem I have is perfectly stated in the Wildwood post below: Ted Kennedy not supporting Hillary is not a snub to Bill Clinton. I don't need to elect him again.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks

Posted 8:48 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Germantown, Md.: Robert, not an election post. I just wanted to let you know that your trip (and postings) from Finland were one of the best stories I've ever read in The Post (or on washingtonpost.com). Please grab that great cameraman (can't remember his name) and hit the road again.

washingtonpost.com: Finland Diary (washingtonpost.com, May-August 2005)

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, thank you! And here's a link, not that I expect anyone to use it tonight. The photographer is the great Lucian Perkins. We do want to take such a trip again.

Posted 8:48 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: I'm heartened to see the multiple questions and suggestions about revising our primary system. It's a pet peeve of mine too, and awareness is the first step to change. Larry Sabato outlines a great solution to the problem: It is a rotating, regional primary system, like Broder's idea, with two small states picked at random out of a pool and allowed to go first, so retail politics still can play a role.

washingtonpost.com: Suggestions for reforming the primaries and the Electoral College (Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, Oct. 18, 2007)

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. And thanks to Chris Hopkins of washingtonpost.com for finding the Sabato article.

Posted 8:46 p.m., 2.5.2008

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An update from the prediction markets: FYI, the people who trade in political futures (basically, the probability that an electoral outcome will occur) have Obama now at a 54 percent chance at winning the nomination (Hillary at 46 percent). Last night at this time, it was roughly reversed. A bit of momentum in Obama's direction -- so says the market at InTrade.com.

Robert G. Kaiser: Interesting -- or is it? What's their record? I don't know.

Posted 8:45 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Fairfax, Va.: Does Obama make any of the Southern states competitive as the nominee, other than eternally swinging Florida?

Robert G. Kaiser: The South is changing. Virginia certainly will be in play in November. Both Carolinas could be; Georgia could be. Hard to say if Obama or Clinton does better in the South in November.

Posted 8:45 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Boston: Watching a selection of early network coverage of the results, the Democratic pundits and the media, at least on ABC and CNN, seem to be a bit more like Obama cheerleaders than objective analysts. It seems to me that the most anti-Clinton Democrats have been doing a lot of commentary lately. Do you think this is accurate, and if so, to what would you attribute it?

Robert G. Kaiser: I am loathe to attribute motives to these commentators. I do know that the Clintons' hostile attitude toward the press -- evident since their Little Rock days -- never has helped them make friends in the news media. But Obama has not been cultivating reporters the way, for example, JFK did for years.

Posted 8:44 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Wildwood, Mo.: With all the talk of "The Snub" at the State of the Union Address, I couldn't help but smile when I considered who Hillary Clinton was shaking hands with. At the 1980 Democratic Convention we watched Jimmy Carter chase Edward Kennedy around the speakers platform like a forlorn puppy as Kennedy refused to shake hands or even acknowledge President Carter. Perhaps the torch has been passed to the new generation in more ways than one.

Kennedy now (politically) has turned on the only two men he has endorsed since 1968 who have become president. In light of details like the recent Washington Post story about how Kennedy was offended that the Clintons weren't giving enough credit to JFK, does your experience of Washington suggest these two changes of heart are just a coincidence or is there an ego (or more) involved?

washingtonpost.com: Clinton's LBJ Comments Infuriated Ted Kennedy (washingtonpost.com, Jan. 30)

Robert G. Kaiser: Has Kennedy really "turned on" Clinton? Maybe, but I think his enthusiasm for Obama was more important than any feelings he had about the Clintons. But I have no inside info on this.

Posted 8:42 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Rockville, Md.: Is Mrs. Clinton the first candidate to run in primaries in three home states on the same day?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't have that kind of memory, but it sounds like a first to me!

Posted 8:41 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Michigan again: I'm young, and fascinated, and (respectfully) you've been around a while -- can you remember a primary day this exciting?

Robert G. Kaiser: I cannot.

Posted 8:41 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Neutral: This is just a comment for all readers. As a foreigner watching the primary contests, I am so impressed by the democratic process of electing the president. I just want to congratulate all Americans on their success in organizing such a democratic election.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks, neutral. Where are you?

Posted 8:40 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: If an Obama had run 20 years ago, do you think the results would have been the same? If not, why not? What exactly has changed in America that makes Obama a viable candidate?

Robert G. Kaiser: Gosh, have you been here for the past 20 years? Have you noticed how the role of black people in our society has been transformed in these years? So much has changed I don't know where to begin -- and I won't try in this format.

Posted 8:40 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Burke, Va.: I see Obama is listed as having won two states and Romney has won one -- yet neither has any delegates credited for these wins. Why not?

Robert G. Kaiser: My colleagues Jason Manning and Russ Walker at washingtonpost.com, who are in charge of that chart, point out that the AP, which we rely on, only has allocated delegates in West Virginia. They still are trying to calculate the delegate totals in other states, which have complicated (and not all the same) rules. It will take some time to get more delegate numbers.

Posted 8:39 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Palo Alto, Calif.: If Obama trounces Hillarty, or even just does substantially better than expected, how would you deal with the fact that The Washington Post's articles about Obama and Hillary in the past several months may have helped Obama substantially, hurt Hillary, and interfered in and changed the result of a presidential election? It would be great if you took this question. A lot of your readers are asking this same question in chat rooms, etc. Thanks.

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm happy to take your question, but at a total loss as to how to answer it. What stories are you talking about? Do you think we sit around here figuring how to help/hurt various candidates? Well, I have been here for 44 years, and have never seen or participated in a conversation like that. Our job is to report, analyze and explain. That's what we try to do.

I would point out (remaining baffled as to what you are talking about) that the most controversial Post story of recent months was about Obama and the Internet-based rumors that he was a Muslim. Not exactly what you are alluding to.

Posted 8:37 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Anonymous: Does Clinton have a chance of winning Arkansas in the general election?

Robert G. Kaiser: Sure. Bill won it twice.

Posted 8:35 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Backwards Country: Many conservatives understandably are upset about the "vote-splitting" between Huckabee and Romney on the right in several states, which likely will be a large factor in John McCain's securing the nomination -- despite his having support of just a plurality of the voters. Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), a more modern voting method now used in the more developed democracies, would render this problem moot. In this system, people rank their choices as opposed to only getting one choice and having to guess how their fellow voters are casting, and hence which candidates are still truly "viable." Incidentally, this would have delivered the 2000 general election to the candidate vastly preferred by the American people (Gore). Why do you suppose this superior voting system is still nearly unheard of here in the "world's exporter of democracy"? Thanks for chatting.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for your comment. We are very conservative about changing our system. I personally thought the 2000 fiasco might prompt serious consideration of real changes, but it didn't. Maybe Sept. 11 had something to do with that -- but maybe not.

Posted 8:35 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Michigan: How volatile are these early return numbers? Because it does look like Hillary Clinton is cleaning up.

Robert G. Kaiser: No, she is not cleaning up, even on the basis of the early numbers. For example, New Jersey and Connecticut, her proverbial "backyard," are both dead-even in the exit poll -- not good for her. Patience!

Posted 8:33 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: A lot of people have suggested a McCain-Huckabee ticket and they seem to work well together (though maybe that's only because they're both against Romney!). But wouldn't that ticket just tick off the economic conservatives in the party even more?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't think they'd like it.

Posted 8:33 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Seattle: How is it possible to call a state (e.g. Massachusetts for Romney) when only 1 percent of the precincts have been counted?

washingtonpost.com: McCain Takes New Jersey, Ill., and Conn.; Romney Wins Mass. (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 5)

Robert G. Kaiser: We have exit polls in those states which show very big leads for the declared winner. In states where the exit polls show a close race, we won't call a winner for some time.

Posted 8:31 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Chicago: Mr. Kaiser et al, as always, thanks for your time. To what extent do you think the "conservative" outrage at McCain is a function of the extent to which he wants to minimize or eliminate the role money plays in politics, an agenda that threatens the influence that the wealthy can have on politics?

washingtonpost.com: Limbaugh on McCain: It's Better to Be Right All the Time (Post, Feb. 5)

Robert G. Kaiser: Many conservatives believe McCain-Feingold, also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act -- the reform that shut down "soft money" and made other changes in the campaign finance rules -- somehow violates the First Amendment (a position the Supreme court has rejected). Is that because they want to keep money in politics, and help rich people? That's certainly possible, but I have no basis for saying it is true.

Posted 8:30 p.m., 2.5.2008

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East Lansing, Mich.: Over the course of the primaries, the voter turnout has been strong. From my "read" on things, it sounds like the Democrats really have come out in force, and tonight sounds like it won't be any different. Do you take anything from primary turnouts in terms of general election turnouts? I would be curious if there were any correlation between the two. Also, if the Democrats turn out much more heavily, is there a correlation toward them being the victor in the general election? It would be an interesting study, if it has been looked into.

Robert G. Kaiser: By every known measurement, there is a lot more energy on the Democratic side this year than on the Republican side. This is why so many political scientists and independent experts think this is likely to be a Democratic year. But "likely" is not a guarantee --elections can bring surprises.

Posted 8:28 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Los Angeles: Is Missouri considered a "bellwether" state for both primaries and national elections? If so, do you think that will hold true for the Democratic primary this year?

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, and probably not, but who knows? Missouri is a genuine bellwether state, historically. I know nothing about the history of its Democratic primary -- I don't know how old it is either. I'm going to see what I can find out.

Posted 8:26 p.m., 2.5.2008

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San Francisco: Do you feel that Obama is at all insulated from the kind of criticism that other candidates (on both sides) have received, because of opponents' and journalists' fear of being perceived as racist?

Robert G. Kaiser: I do not.

Posted 8:25 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Seattle: But do you feel that generally the outcome of the primaries is inevitable, no matter the primary cycle? If other states had early primaries instead of Iowa and New Hampshire, wouldn't we be in the same spot -- Clinton vs. Obama? Thanks, and enjoy your evening.

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, we'll never know, will we? I have thought for many months that this would be a Clinton-Obama contest, I agree, but we can't realistically play the what-if game.

Posted 8:25 p.m., 2.5.2008

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St. Louis: This election has had more than its share of "code words" and I've heard murmurings -- particularly among red-state Democrats that the Clinton candidacy is "selfish" and "all about them." Trying to decipher this, I've thought Democrats in states like Missouri, Kansas and Arizona (all states with major Obama endorsements where Democrats need to be moderate to conservative to win) feel that with Hillary Clinton at top of the ticket they will be more vulnerable, whereas with with Obama they expect there might be more split-ticket voting. What have you heard about this?

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm happy to post your comment, but I'm not comfortable discussing what I've "heard." Facts are more interesting.

Posted 8:24 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Laurel, Md.: So Mr. Obama has appeal in Red States. Do you think the party faithful relish the prospect of realigning the electoral landscape? Or is their preferred strategy "let's rerun 2000/2004 plus three close wins for 271 -- so what good is South Carolina?"

Robert G. Kaiser: I expect the 2000/2004 model to be blown up this year.

Posted 8:23 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Arlington, Va.: Why is so much emphasis being placed on who is winning states instead of the number of delegates, which actually will decide who the nominee is?

Robert G. Kaiser: Fair question, but consider this: For the Democrats, it is entirely possible that "superdelegates" -- party officials and elected officials -- will hold the ultimate balance of power. They will, I'd bet, go with the candidate they think has the momentum and the best chance of winning in November. So the popular votes in these primaries can be important.

Posted 8:22 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Palo Alto, Calif.: I'm asking how Hillary's going to do. Based on the exit polls, its sounding pretty grim.

Robert G. Kaiser: Not grim yet.

Posted 8:20 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: Obviously there is a smaller black population in Tennessee, but do you know why Clinton has been running much stronger there than Obama?

Robert G. Kaiser: The journalism I've seen portrayed Tennessee as a good-ol'-boy stronghold not responding to Obamamania, but I have no inside info. Interesting to note that Obama did very well today among white voters in Georgia. I don't think we should invest too heavily in the racial interpretation of these results.

Posted 8:20 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Tallahassee, Fla.: Hasn't the National Organization of Women gone a bit over the top on Obama? If he is the nominee, how do they backtrack from some of their statements? (Also, why is no one talking about the bath that Vegas took on the Super Bowl? That's a lot more interesting than the primaries. My bookie was nearly in tears at the end of the game.)

washingtonpost.com: NOW Again Attacks Obama's Illinois Voting Record on Abortion Bills (Post, Feb. 5)

Robert G. Kaiser: I will take a pass on the Vegas issue. As to NOW, not my job to pass judgment. I note that Planned Parenthood asked Obama to take the position that NOW criticizes him for taking.

Posted 8:17 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Palo Alto, Calif.: I like Hillary Clinton a lot and I've got a very bad feeling about today. How do things look for my candidate?

Robert G. Kaiser: Sorry, you didn't explain your bad feeling -- what is it? Too soon for me to answer your question.

Posted 8:16 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Washington: What will tonight's voting patterns portend for the national election in November, if any -- especially as the Democratic delegates are prorated vs. winner-take-all for Republicans?

Robert G. Kaiser: Not much here to help us foresee November. Patience is required!

Posted 8:15 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Retail.: Re: Regional primaries: no no no! We need the kind of retail politics that small early state primaries provide! Whatever you may say about the regional primaries, we should not get rid of the small early primaries. You could argue about whether they should be Iowa and New Hampshire, I guess, though.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting.

Posted 8:14 p.m., 2.5.2008

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San Francisco: Let's just say, for argument's sake, that Hillary and Obama come out dead even tonight. Who do you think stands a better chance of winning the Democratic nomination in a post-Super Tuesday race?

Robert G. Kaiser: Below we already have posted a David Broder column from two weeks ago suggesting that Obama might have an advantage in a prolonged context. I can't do better than David. The real question is whether either will develop persuasive momentum, today or later.

One important fact: Obama now has more money than Clinton.

Posted 8:14 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Woodbridge, Va.: Any idea where the Edwards vote is going yet? I sense a majority of it will swing toward Obama, as those in the Edwards camp were originally anti-Clinton.

Robert G. Kaiser: I am not sure we ever will know. I don't know what sort of exit poll question there may be about this, but I will check.

Posted 8:11 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Arlington, Va.: If McCain end up being the GOP nominee, do you think the likes of Coulter and Limbaugh will eat their words and support him, or will they actually back the Democratic ticket?

Robert G. Kaiser: I wouldn't expect them to back a Democrat, but Limbaugh at least seems strongly disinclined to support McCain -- at least today.

Posted 8:10 p.m., 2.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: David Broder: Now or Never for Obama (Post, Jan. 23)

Posted 8:09 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Pittsburgh: Do you put any stock into these early exit polls?

Robert G. Kaiser: Some stock, sure. But the margins of error are greater than the differences they are showing in the states I mentioned earlier that are very close on the Democratic side, for instance. Through the years I have seen many instances when exit polls were just wrong, most famously in 2004, when for some hours John Kerry thought he was going to be president because of incorrect exit polls.

Posted 8:09 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Anchorage, Alaska: I just want to say that although almost all polls will be closed by the time we get to caucus, we're still enthusiastic up here and excited to participate, because our vote will count. The Anchorage caucus is expected to be swamped.

Robert G. Kaiser: Sorry to miss it.

Posted 8:07 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Arlington, Va.: What reforms could be made to make the primary process more fair and representative? What about rotating each cycle which states go first, rather than always Iowa and New Hampshire? Some type of schedule where each region gets first dibs every election cycle. I also prefer the Democrats' proportional delegate system, which makes candidates consider all states rather than focusing on only the big ones (California, New York, Florida) that would be necessary for the winner-take-all method. Any thoughts?

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a huge subject, not suitable for from-the-hip quick replies. This system stinks. It starts much too early,it heavily favors those who can raise a lot of money in advance (though McCain has defied that rule), and it gives a lot of weight to two untypical states, New Hampshire and Iowa. Interestingly, this year those two aren't going to be memorably important. Iowa did legitimize Huckabee and Obama; this was probably more important for Huckabee.

As I've said here before, David Broder had a very good proposal years ago for a series of regional primaries, with real breathing spaces between them -- but New Hampshire and Iowa won't give up their status, I fear, and the parties don't know how to fix a broken system.

Posted 8:07 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Northern Virginia Voter: With Senators Sens. and Obama seemingly deadlocked coming into the District-Maryland-Virginia "Beltway primary," is there any chance that they'll have another debate? If so, when and where, and what would the format be?

washingtonpost.com: Next scheduled debates: Feb. 27 for the Democrats, Feb. 28 for the Republicans -- both on CNN. (youdecide2008.com, Jan. 31)

Robert G. Kaiser: They will, but not before our primaries. Here's the inside skinny...

Posted 8:03 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Laurel, Md.: The day's first result is that Mike Huckabee has won 18 delegates from West Virginia. Oops, sorry, West Virginia jokes are bad form.

Robert G. Kaiser: That's enough of that!

Posted 8:03 p.m., 2.5.2008

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San Francisco: With primary returns from so many states to keep track of tonight, what are the most important bellwethers to monitor? In other words, what state/city/county results will portend a good or bad night for the Democrats and the Republicans in their respective races for their party's nominations?

Robert G. Kaiser: California is of course big for both parties, and the result won't be known until tomorrow, probably, because the whole state is voting on paper ballots. All the big states are significant, I think.

Posted 8:02 p.m., 2.5.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: Good evening. This is surely the most interesting primary night any of us ever has experienced. Polls are closing right now in a bunch of states, which will give us more to chew on, but I can tell you already from the early exit polls that a lot of states are going to be very close in both parties. For example, Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama are neck-and-neck in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Missouri and Arizona. On the Republican side, Huckabee is doing very well in Georgia, creating a new problem for John McCain. Early numbers from California show Romney and McCain very close. Missouri is very close.

So the first blush suggests a pretty good night for Obama, and a somewhat disappointing one for McCain. But I don't expect these first impressions to last very long.

Please give us your comments as well as your questions. We'll be here for a long time tonight. And we have a new system of posting comments that will put the most recent response on the top of the discussion, the reverse of the normal pattern.

Posted 8:00 p.m., 2.5.2008

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