End of ’08 primaries might be summertime’s best feature
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WASHINGTON » The presidential primaries are finally coming to a merciful end.
In the next few days, people in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana will vote. Superdelegates who have yet to commit will state their intentions. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a 1979 graduate of Punahou School, will wrap up the Democratic nomination, then battle Republican John McCain.
And the vast majority of Americans could not be happier.
But there is still a little drama. This weekend, the Democratic Party's rules committee will decide whether to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan, which lost their spots for moving their primaries up to January in violation of party rules. Adding delegates from Florida and Michigan could increase Obama's magic number.
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WASHINGTON » After what feels like forever, the end of the presidential primaries is in sight. Really.
Over the next few days, people in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana will vote. Superdelegates who have been dangling like hanging chads will announce their intentions. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama will clinch the Democratic nomination, ready to take on Republican John McCain. And there will be a collective sigh of relief.
"The country wants a summer vacation," said Jenny Backus, a Democratic analyst not working for either campaign. "We're now at the moment where the country would be perfectly happy to have these two nominees go away and choose their vice presidents."
The primary race that just wouldn't end also will be remembered for starting early: People in Iowa voted on Jan. 3, when the confetti from New Year's Eve had barely been swept up.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., once famously predicted that the finish line would be reached a month later -- at "midnight West Coast time on Feb. 5." In her favor, she figured.
That "Super Tuesday," as it turned out, wasn't even the midpoint.
Now it's super-soaker season. Beach weather. Backyard barbecues ahead of the dog days.
Even at this late stage, the exact finish line is a bit iffy.
Bean counters have been saying that it takes 2,026 delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination. As of yesterday, Obama had 1,984; Clinton, 1,782.
This weekend, though, the Democratic Party's rules committee will decide whether to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan, which lost their spots for moving their primaries up to January in violation of party rules. Adding delegates from Florida and Michigan could increase the magic number.
Even so, there's no suspense about how all of this will end: It just means Obama might have to pull a few extra "superdelegates" out of his back pocket. Those commitments, already coming in for him at a steady rate, are expected to cascade his way once the primary voting ends on Tuesday.
In the face of it all, Clinton refuses to say die.
Yesterday she cast the end of the primaries as a time that party officials and other superdelegates could start breaking her way.
"I think that after the final primaries, people are going to start making up their minds," she said in Montana, which votes Tuesday along with South Dakota. "I think that is the natural progression that one would expect."
For more than a year now, Obama and Clinton have been brawling away, scrapping for every delegate and dollar.
Along the way, the duo participated in 21 Democratic debates -- roughly 375,000 spoken words -- blew through more than $404 million and put the kibosh on six Democratic rivals.
So long, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.
Other candidates, like former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, never even made it to the starting gate.
Overall, there have been 53 contests for the Democrats ahead of the final three: Obama won 28 states plus the Virgin Islands, Democrats abroad, Guam and the District of Columbia. Clinton won 20 states and American Samoa.
The Democratic race has dominated the political landscape so long that it's easy to forget the Republicans had a hard-fought primary contest, too.
So long, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson and James Gilmore.
"This has been a long primary season," Obama noted last month. "There are babies who are now walking and talking who were born since I announced for president."