Monday, February 11, 2008


Was It Huckabam Sweeps?

Well, this was a particularly horrid weekend for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Barack Obama won convincingly in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington (and the U.S. Virgin Islands!) on Saturday -- and Maine on Sunday (and rubbed it in by beating out Bill Clinton for a Grammy, for cripes sake). It's gotten so bad for Sen. Clinton that campaign manager Pattis Solis Doyle did the obligatory plank walk on Sunday -- replaced by former Clinton chief of staff Maggie Williams.

However, the more interesting story is whether Mike Huckabee had a right to crow over a weekend sweep over presumptive Republican Party nominee John McCain -- and whether that right was stolen from him by the Washington GOP.

The state party stopped counting votes from the caucuses and declared McCain the winner of Washington -- with only 87% of the vote in. At that moment, McCain led Huckabee 26-24 -- the actual margin was about 1.8 percent (Ron Paul had 21% of the vote). The party chairman even admitted that he didn't know where the outstanding vote would be coming from. Why do this?

Well, keep in mind that Huckabee had already won a huge victory in the Kansas caucuses early Saturday and eked out a one percent (43-42) win in Louisiana (which became a "beauty contest" because the winner didn't make 50 percent). So, from a public relations standpoint, Washington began to mean something. If Huckabee had won Washington, he would have been able to say that he he has strength outside of the South (and heavily evangelical states like Kansas and Iowa).

Josh Marshall reported the unfolding Washington story all weekend, beginning here. Josh has further updates, including a press release from the Huckabee campaign and a Meet The Press clip where the governor notes the "weird things" going on.

One point, however, that Josh missed is that the "weird things" began earlier in the evening. I was home Saturday and was flipping back and forth between the cable stations. I noticed that the Washington state Republican returns were stuck on 37 percent of precincts reported for what seemed like at least 90 minutes. Then, around 10:30 or so, the numbers jumped up to 74 percent, before slowing to a trickle -- and stopping at 87 percent. What was notable was that Huckabee led McCain by about 27-23 percent at the 37 percent reporting period. When the counting resumed, it seemed like McCain immediately jumped in front -- to the 26-24 margin that remained at the time the counting was "called." Normally, if one candidate catches and passes another as returns come in, it doesn't raise any eyebrows.

But given the, ahem, weirdness (theft?) in Washington, every odd activity needs to be examined.

Cripes, guys, McCain is going to win the darn thing. It's practically mathematically impossible for Huckabee to catch up. But, no, the Washington GOP has to try some underhanded measures to force the issue. And they wonder why the party is in such trouble.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey chastises the Washington state party chair, while noting that the margin between McCain and Huckabee has remained constant after counting was restarted (they're up to 94 percent now).

UPDATE II: Josh Marshall has an even more of a detailed chronology of Saturday's evening voting aberrations -- as well as some incomprehensible "explanations" on what happened.

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