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Scot Lehigh

Mitt's miscalculation

Pamela Bush of Hyde Park cast her vote for Senator Barack Obama during yesterday's presidential primary. Pamela Bush of Hyde Park cast her vote for Senator Barack Obama during yesterday's presidential primary. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Scot Lehigh
Globe Columnist / February 6, 2008

SO WHAT early sense can be made of the gigantic geopolitical jigsaw puzzle that is Super Tuesday?

On the Republican side, it was shaping up as a big night for John McCain, while Mitt Romney faced a map made more difficult by his own maneuvering.

Consider: In addition to Illinois, McCain won in the East Coast states of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and New York - places that should be fertile ground for a Massachusetts candidate.

Meanwhile, Romney, a recently minted conservative, hoped to stay credible by holding Massachusetts and trying to pull off wins in more distant places like Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota, and Utah - and doing well enough in California to blunt (or even beat) McCain there.

But Romney's uphill battle suggests he made a strategic miscalculation when he decided to wage his presidential campaign by tacking hard to starboard in an effort to make himself the conservative favorite. That transformation was never particularly plausible, and he essentially sacrificed delegate-rich regional ground that should have been a natural for him.

So with McCain headed toward a strong showing, Romney will likely have to face this reality: He remade his political profile to appeal to conservatives, only to be beaten in key states by a man whom voters respected for doing less of that sort of repositioning.

On the Democratic side, with the delegates chosen proportionally, neither candidate seemed on the way to a decisive advantage. Hillary Clinton won her home state of New York, as well as Massachusetts, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Still, Barack Obama seemed to be on his way to a solid performance himself; in addition to Illinois, he won Delaware, Georgia (with 39 percent of the white vote), and Alabama; and had the prospect of strong showings elsewhere.

On a day with so many contests, and with such a crush of demands, the strong natural advantage should be with a better-known candidate like Hillary Clinton. She, after all, held substantial leads in national polls until very recently.

So with Obama apparently holding his own, he should emerge from Super Tuesday in competitive shape. And in the next two weeks, the campaign calendar moves to states that should be friendly ground for him.

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is lehigh@globe.com.

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