Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

02-04-08

Contacts:

Dianne Bystrom, Catt Center for Women & Politics, (515) 294-4185, (515) 451-5084 (c), dbystrom@iastate.edu

David Gieseke, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, (515) 294-7742, dgieseke@iastate.edu

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

ISU's Bystrom predicts GOP race decided, Democrats still open after 'Super Tuesday'

AMES, Iowa -- Dianne Bystrom was one of the few political analysts who didn't count out Sen. John McCain last July when it looked like he was short on money and woefully behind in the polls in the Republican presidential race.

"I'm not counting him out yet," said Bystrom in a July 11 news release. "I remember we once called Bill Clinton 'The Comeback Kid,' or he called himself that. You can come back, but McCain's biggest issue right now is going to be money, because he's going to need money to come back."

But even Bystrom -- director of Iowa State University's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics -- is surprised that McCain could practically lock up the GOP nomination with a strong showing on 'Super Tuesday,' when 24 states will hold primaries or caucuses. With 52 percent of Democratic delegates and 41 percent of Republican delegates at stake in tomorrow's vote, Bystrom sees McCain's prospects potentially being the greatest upset thus far in this presidential campaign.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom just a few months ago, we may have chosen the candidate on the Republican side, and not among the Democrats after 'Super Tuesday,'" Bystrom said. "What has benefited McCain among the moderate wing was Rudy Giuliani's risky strategy in putting all his emphasis on Florida. We now know that that strategy didn't work (with Giuliani's third-place finish and subsequent exit from the race), so moderate Republicans' support will now go to John McCain. On the other side, social conservatives have been indecisive on who they want to support. They've considered Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. McCain has benefited by the other choices in the Republican party not gaining consensus among social conservatives.

"So McCain has the brightest prospects Tuesday, and who would have thought it?" she asked. "I think the key was that he went back to his maverick roots and became the authentic John McCain everybody knew and loved."

As for the sometimes contentious Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Bystrom expects that to still be very much "too close to call" after all the votes are counted Tuesday.

"There are no winner-take-all states for the Democrats and the game is all about delegates," she said. "On 'Super Tuesday,' most scenarios show Clinton and Obama will split delegates right down the middle. That's why Obama's been campaigning in Clinton's home state (New York) and Clinton's been campaigning in Obama's (Illinois) -- to get as many delegates from those states, even though they will lose in the popular vote."

While the polls show Clinton with slight leads in the majority of 'Super Tuesday' states, Bystrom says that a key to tomorrow's Democratic outcome might be where the support goes for the candidates' recent rival John Edwards, who also dropped out following Florida last week.

"Most predictions show Clinton with slightly more delegates than Barack Obama -- something like 50 to 70 more delegates -- after Super Tuesday. So being that close, you see the importance of John Edwards," said Bystrom. "Most of last week's polls were taken before he dropped out. The Edwards supporters become very important on where they go. If they trend toward Clinton, she's got a slight lead. If Obama picks up bulk of Edwards supporters, he may come out with more delegates. But unless there's a huge shift of Edwards delegates, the Democratic race is too close to call on Feb. 5. And so they go on until the second 'Super Tuesday' on March 4, with such big state as Ohio and Texas up for grabs. It could boil down to that."

If that happens, the Democratic race will continue at least a month longer than most political experts predicted -- including Bystrom, who has contributed to 11 books on politics, including "Gender and Elections" (2006), and "Anticipating Madam President" (2003). She just completed a book chapter that includes an early look at Clinton's current presidential campaign.

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Bystrom

Dianne Bystrom

Quick look

Dianne Bystrom, director of ISU's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, sees the biggest upset of 'Super Tuesday' being that John McCain could practically lock up the GOP nomination with a strong showing, while the final two Democratic candidates -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- will probably split the vote and continue to battle each other for at least another month.

Quote

"So McCain has the brightest prospects Tuesday, and who would have thought it? I think the key was that he went back to his maverick roots and became the authentic John McCain everybody knew and loved."

Dianne Bystrom