Monday, December 3, 2007

How Important Is Kentucky?

With Rudy Giuliani's visit to Lexington for a fundraiser this Wednesday (his first campaign stop in Kentucky since announcing his presidential candidacy), one wonders whether Republicans in the Commonwealth will matter for anything more than their money during the 2008 presidential primary season. Will Giuliani, or any of the other Republican candidates, need Kentucky's delegates to win the nomination? The answer at this point remains: maybe.

In September, John B. Judis of The New Republic made this prediction for delegate count after the February 5th super-primary (when 25 States, with 1,058 delegates, hold either a primary or a caucus): "Giuliani would be in the lead with 459 delegates, followed by Thompson with 380, Romney with 300, Senator John McCain with 131, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee with 33." Judis made that prognostication, of course, before Huckabee's recent surge scrambled the race even further.

Last week Dr. David Terr of had this to say about the likely standings after February 5: "Many say that the Republican race will be decided on Feb 5 but I don't believe this is the case for the Republican party. Romney has proven that if he spends the time and money in a state that he can win. Thompson believes he is the comeback kid. And based on the polls on this site we had the race split practically like this Giuliani 50%, Romney 25%, Thompson 25%. This does not even take into account the possibility of a rejuvenation of McCain among moderate Republicans in which he takes away delegates from Giuliani. And what about Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, they are not going to be falling flat in this race either."

If these scenarios are anywhere close to being accurate, no viable candidate could afford to ignore Kentucky's primary, scheduled for May 20. Indeed, of the 23 States (and the District of Columbia) with Republican presidential primaries after February 5, Kentucky is the 8th largest in terms of delegate count, with 45.

Only Texas (140), Ohio (88), Pennsylvania (74), North Carolina (69), Virginia (63), Indiana (57) and Louisiana (46) have more delegates than Kentucky.

Massachusetts (43), Washington (40), Wisconsin (40), Kansas (39), Mississippi (38), Maryland (37), Nebraska (33), Idaho (32), New Mexico (32), Oregon (30), South Dakota (27), Maine (21), Hawaii (20), Rhode Island (20), Vermont (17), the District of Columbia (16), each has less delegates to offer than Kentucky.

Kentucky Republican leaders who have announced a presidential favorite are sharply split. On November 16, Giuliani named former U.S. Representative Ann Northup his campaign manager for the Commonwealth. Next came last week's announcement by Secretary of State Trey Grayson that he joined Republican Congressmen Hal Rogers, Ron Lewis and Ed Whitfield in endorsing Mitt Romney.

As for the other major candidates, Ryan Alessi of the Herald-Leader reports that there are "a bulk of state House Republicans" who "are lining up with Tennessee neighbor Fred Thompson" and "a smattering of officials" who "are looking at" Mike Huckabee.

Senator Mitch McConnell is conspicuously silent as to which presidential candidate he favors.

The greatest Republican, Abraham Lincoln, once famously said, "I hope to have God on my side but I must have Kentucky.” We will soon learn whether the Commonwealth is as important for securing the nomination of the Republican presidential candidate who hopes to be inaugurated in the year of the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in Kentucky.

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