Getting your vote on: U.S. edition

By Todd Andre

Everyone from political pundits to apathetic punks sat at the Rosza Centre to discuss the biggest one-day battle for presidential candidacy in United States history Tue., Feb. 6. The University of Calgary’s Institute for United States Policy Research assembled panelists from student media and faculty to discuss the issues surrounding “Super Tuesday,” a day in which 24 states south of the border chose their Democratic or Republican presidential candidates.

The candidates that win the primary elections get the right to represent their parties in the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 4, 2008. The race between Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was in a dead heat, while the Republican candidacy had an air of inevitability with John McCain sitting comfortably on top of rivals Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

Super Tuesday was the biggest event during the presidential primaries the U.S. has ever seen, both in price and size. Before the primaries are over, both parties will have spent a total of approximately $1 billion on their campaigns. This number could swell to as much as $3 billion by the time the presidential campaign is finished.

“It’s not that different from other years,” said IUSPR director Dr. Stephen Randall. “Super Tuesday has always been a major event. This year, there’s been a real struggle with some of the states who want to go early–so that their vote counts. It’s trying to get into the limelight to some extent.”

The excess of states in this year’s Lolapalooza of primaries is the result of states trying to avoid going last. The final few presidential primaries are often meaningless formalities because the candidates have already won the necessary amount of delegates to claim the nomination, explained Randall.

Democratic presidential nominees need to win 2,025 delegates determined by the proportion of the vote received in each state. Republican nominees aim for 1,191 delegates in a first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system; in the Republican system, if you win the state, you win all of its delegates.

The panel tried to tackle some of the issues that will decide which two candidates will vie for the leadership of the free world. IUSPR representative Dr. Frank Towers spoke first in an ambitious attempt to explain all of the complexities of the primary system. Unfortunately, 10 years might not have been enough time to satisfy this Herculean task and he had only 10 minutes. The next speaker was U of C history professor Elizabeth Jameson who outlined the domestic policy of each candidate on both the Democratic and Republican side. CJSW’s Evan Wilson gave a colourful speech on the volatility of the elections so far, while at the same time comically pointing out the media’s error-prone prognostications. Gauntlet features editor Jon Roe also spoke on whether or not electronic politics actually makes a difference on the end result of elections.

With Super Tuesday finished, candidates still have a long way to go. On the Republican side, McCain is the winner but the Democratic race will come down to the wire.

“By my count, I don’t see how either of the [Democratic] candidates can win this now mathematically before the convention [Aug. 25-28],” said Randall. “The democratic race will likely go to the convention for resolution, but on the Republican side, it’s clear McCain is in the lead now.”

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, count on the outlandish personalities and shameless melodrama to continue to entertain throughout primary season.

“We got an interesting time coming,” said Randall.