Here we are. Super Tuesday. In a race that some thought would be decided after New Hampshire, or after South Carolina, or after Florida. This race has been up for grabs from Day One.
Get used to it. The General Election will be too. Americans are determining our post-9/11, post-Bush identity. No small decision, and one which leaves many voters undecided, even as they vote. In New Hampshire I watched the behavior of voters at Bedford High School. I watched the same pair of feet in a booth for half an hour. In the booth, they were still undecided. I heard a woman say she'd been there for an hour, stuck between two final choices. Soul searching, hoping to make the best decision.
Who are we? Who do we want to be? These are big questions and will take longer than Super Tuesday to pick apart. Still, what we know so far is interesting. We know from New Hampshire that voters aren't listening to the press and they aren't picking the phone up for pollsters. We know that voters are turning out in record numbers to be heard, and that they are not as partisan as their politicians thought. They are willing to switch parties and cross-fertilize for someone they think is telling the truth. They are willing to withhold decisive action and let the race continue on to other states. The move by politicians to front-load the process has been slowed down by the most powerful voice in the process: the citizen who votes.
On the Republican side, we know from Michigan and the decision to reach into personal wealth that Romney has the will to win but looks better as a front-runner than an upstart. We don't know how McCain will perform if he is and remains a front-runner; we know he does great as a fighter and underdog, that he looks most human in that role. Huckabee, a communicator of amazing ability, has added humor and ideas to the race. Not a likely nominee, but he adds layers to the dialogue and makes voters think.
On the Democratic side, we know that the one who won last has a lower chance of winning next. Obama won Iowa, Clinton won New Hampshire and Nevada, then Obama won South Carolina. Polls today show a dead-heat in California. That in itself is something to behold. It will likely get split up in some fashion. If Clinton and Obama end up within 50 delegates, the race is still essentially a dead heat. If one wins California decisively but the other wins many others, the race has a front-runner, but not a nominee.
This is the first race I've seen since 1992 where momentum doesn't carry past one state. Voters seem to want to stop momentum in each state, and decide anew. Stop the last state's winner and reconsider. Or vote for them again, but not by much. Its not as though voters have coffee and decide to do this -- its a reflection of the mood of the electorate, and perhaps the restoration of the power of the voter. What a great thing for America -- voters in different places, making their own decisions about what they feel America should be.
Frustrating for campaigns and advisors, exhausting for the candidates, and expensive for the media, all true. But for democracy, a huge victory.