It’s all up to Pennsylvania!
Yes folks, over the next seven weeks — the amount of time it takes a normal country to conduct an entire national election — we will be obsessing about the critical upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Harrisburg! Altoona! The Poconos! Did you know that in the Poconos, some hotels have bathtubs shaped like hearts or Champagne glasses? We actually plan on bringing that up a lot.
Of all the things that went right for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, the Ohio primary win was most impressive. Although Ohioans politely tiptoed out of Hillary’s more boring round-table discussions, they came to believe she could be a president who would fix things, no matter how complicated or frustrating. The mere fact that she had the staying power to keep her eyes open, they felt, was a good sign.
In response, the Obama campaign has reportedly decided to do far fewer exciting rallies and lots more mind-numbing round-table discussions in Pennsylvania. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we are all really looking forward to that.
Ohio was great. I don’t know how anybody could not love a primary where the big scandal involves gossip about Nafta among Canadian diplomats.
And where, in a critical strategic move, Bill Clinton seemed to have been permanently reassigned to a lecture circuit in Chillicothe.
The Texas primary results were much closer. The white male vote, which keeps shifting, was split. I’m beginning to suspect that the white males have realized that they’re either going to be accused of racism or sexism and have therefore made a secret pact to take turns.
Once the primary voting ended, there were caucuses to choose a third of the Texas delegates. Given the way the counting is going, we should have the results sometime in 2009. But the Clinton campaign instantly issued complaints about rule-breaking. (“Numerous calls have shown that Obama supporters prematurely removed convention packets from polling places …”).
That was truly unfair. People who never knew these caucuses existed before this week did the best they could under ridiculous circumstances, including an innovative rule that no one is in charge when the event begins.
“The secretary is the first precinct captain who manages to take a leadership role. It’s a little ambiguous to be totally honest,” said Alexander Baugh, a graduate student and an Obama captain at Mathews Elementary School in Austin.
Inside, hundreds and hundreds of voters were trying to squeeze into the caucus, which was held in a child-size cafeteria. There was a great deal of time to contemplate a poster listing CAFETERIA EXPECTATIONS, which were so wise I feel compelled to share a couple with you:
• Eat your own food.
• Keep hands, feet and objects to yourself.
The Mathews Elementary voters got a temporary leader, May Schmidt, who actually seemed to understand the rules. This is the only thing that spared them from the fate of the voters at a library outside of Houston, where it took two and a half hours for the would-be leaders to figure out how to open the door and let people inside.
Schmidt had made way more copies of the critical forms than she had been allotted, avoiding the fate of many, many caucuses that ran out. And she dispatched her daughter to negotiate with the janitorial staff.
“They’re opening up the gym. They don’t like it, but they’re opening,” she said. “Now if you’re Obama, hold up your hands.”
The vast majority of the room started waving, and making a hoot of victory that sounded very much like the one the Spartans used in “300.”
The Hillary people, looking a little deflated, trudged off to the gym, where they stood in line to register. Meanwhile, they got a special chair for an 87-year-old woman who had made her way to the school to caucus for Clinton, carrying her cane and a big flashlight. “I’m just about blind, so they have to help me. They’ve been real good about it,” she said cheerfully.
Am I wrong in thinking this is above and beyond the call of duty? Cheers to Obama, who is caucus king thanks to the way he has mobilized his ultra-enthusiastic supporters. But if I were a superdelegate forced to choose between two attractive candidates, I’d look for the one who won the big primaries where people were actually encouraged to vote.
For now, it’s all up to Pennsylvania in April, until it’s all up to Indiana and North Carolina in May. (This Saturday is the Wyoming caucus, but it’s not all up to Wyoming.) Finally on June 7, it will all be up to Puerto Rico, until it’s over and we discover that we’re right back where we are now.
Then comes the kind of convention political reporters have dreamed about since we were little nerds in the third grade writing essays on the electoral college. It will be August with nothing on television but “Big Brother XXXIII,” and you will have to listen to us.
Life is wonderful. Eat your own food.
* By GAIL COLLINS (NYT/AUSTIN, Texas)