Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Puma Primary; Hillary Surprises

Obama won Monday's Puma Primary, but lost the popular vote yesterday. After the caucus delegates are apportioned, it looks like there will be about an even split of delegates, which means the fight will go on at least to Pennsylvania but probably beyond.

First to the Puma Primary. Starting late last week, I had a strange feeling that Obama had peaked in Texas. The talking heads (of which I am now one, more on that later) last night said the "3 am ringing telephone" ad must have had something to do with late deciders breaking for Clinton, but I felt it coming before.

First, his rise in most polls leveled off. Second, a lot of people I talked to said they were starting to feel uneasy, that the the Obama campaign seemed a little too cult-like for their taste. One even described feeling "creeped out." I still felt optimistic about his chances of winning here, but thought it wouldn't be easy. Then I went shopping on Monday night.

I admit, not a representative sample, but anecdotally speaking, it looked like Obama fever was catching, and especially susceptible were the young. I went to the Puma store at the Galleria to get a new pair of golf shoes (their golf gear is fantastic-looking). A hip store full of young people browsing the selection of jackets and shirts. And everyone who worked there was for Obama. All around college-age, one African American male (who was actually wearing an Obama t-shirt at work), a couple of young Hispanic males and one Hispanic female. To a person they were all for Obama and they all were planning to attend their precinct conventions.

But Hillary esta fuertisima. I wrote before about Hispanic voters in places other than the border area being an important target for Obama; it looks like they either couldn't get traction or dropped the ball. Almost no visible presence in the Houston Hispanic community that I could tell. It was all Hillary.

Driving past my polling place yesterday, one of the largest Hispanic precincts in Harris County, I saw NO Obama signs at all, but several for Hillary, including a hand-painted one that read "Hillary, we got your back." Must have been a result of the hard work and institutional support by all the Hispanic elected officials who endorsed her early on and in the past few weeks. Congratulations are in order for pulling out the big wins yesterday.

By the way, I am now a political pundit. I appeared live from a studio in downtown Houston on a worldwide Al Jazeera news broadcast to talk about the Texas Primary, which was viewed by 70-80 million people; 300,000-400,000 here in the U.S. (making their audience slightly larger than MSNBC, if not as mainstream). Still, it was my first such experience and it was truly an honor, and I hope to do it a lot more often.