Turn the lights out on Super Tuesday...

Behind The News
February 6, 2008 1:31:46 PM PST
If you've seen the pictures, you know. Such devastation from a series of tornadoes in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee. At least 52 people killed and 100 hurt as the severe weather cut a wide swath of destruction. We'll have the latest on the damage, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, the longest Presidential campaign in history looks like it's going to last longer.

Maybe a lot longer.

The Super Tuesday primaries - two dozen of them -- that were supposed to secure a nomination, or at least get someone close, secured only a tighter race.

The race for the delegates is far from over. And now there's talk and conjecture (and perhaps wishful thinking) that the nominations might not be wrapped up by convention time. Imagine that -- a convention that is a real confab, where there's a battle for delegates rather than just a coronation.

Most Americans don't remember political conventions when haggling over delegates, and multiple ballots, and deal making were de rigueur. Political parties went into these summer gatherings not knowing who the candidate would be, and the bare-knuckle politicking and deal-making was fascinating.

I must sound like Uncle Bill here, recalling the good-old days before the wheel and all. But let's not forget that one out of every four Americans has lived under a President named only Bush or Clinton. So the number of people who can remember, say, conventions in the 50s and 60s, is dwindling. But they were exciting affairs, not the made-for-television spectacles of recent decades.

When the police weren't beating up anti-war protesters in Chicago in 1968, the Democrats were battling over the nomination of the pro-war Hubert Humphrey or the anti-war Gene McCarthy, all with the memory of Robert Kennedy, murdered just two months before, over the convention hall.

Or the fight over arch conservative Barry Goldwater at the Republican convention in 1964. Or the multi ballot nomination of John Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1960, after a wicked challenge from Lyndon Johnson, who would become his running mate.

Will we head to this summer's conventions -- the Repubs in Minneapolis, the Dems in Denver -- with the nominations not locked up? Hard to imagine, but it could happen.

You can examine the exit polls - we have some information on 7Online.Com -- and judge for yourself. How did blacks vote (mostly for Obama); how did women vote (mostly for Clinton - and she paid homage to that last night, citing her mother watching her on the stage, a woman who was born before "women got the right to vote"); how did conservatives react to McCain (by not voting en masse for him, and giving support to Huckabee, who is now revived)?

Will the ultra-conservative backlash against McCain force him to reach out to Huckabee (who he has had something of a non-aggression pact with) and pick him as his running mate? Would Clinton and Obama ever consider running as a team?

Questions without answers - but fascinating water cooler topics.

We'll have the latest on the campaigns, tonight at 11.

Two other notes about our coverage that are worth mentioning.

The first comes from Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Rossen, who was in Phoenix covering the McCain campaign.

Before the Senator came out to give his Super Tuesday post-voting speech, a McCain staffer yelled to the gathered media, "Shut off all your light, big or small."

Here's Jeff's account:

"After we in the media gave her that 'Are you talking to us?" look?she said "yes." Turns out, Senator McCain could not read the Teleprompter with all our lights on. What struck me most is how bizarre of a request it was. Certainly they had to know dozens of cameras would be here?. no surprise there. And not only that, but they're the ones who set up the room. So, if it was a design flaw in the layout, that was because of the McCain Advance Team. I am fairly sure McCain spoke a half-hour later than expected, because his team was trying to figure out how to get us to shut the lights off. Eventually, he came out?. and we all flipped our lights back on. Ah, Super Duper Tuesday."

The news here, it seems to me, is the increasing use of Teleprompters by the candidates. The last time McCain used it, he sounded so stilted and canned. Relying on the prompter creates, I think, a read-it-at-all-cost mentality, especially for people who aren't accustomed to it.

Believe me, I use one everyday. But I have my paper scripts in front of me at all times, and I know what

I wrote. I hope I sound as if I'm talking, not reading.

Politicians hooked on prompters often sound as if they're reading. You can tell if someone is reading from a prompter while giving a speech because they can't really take their eyes off the device. They will always bring their eyes to the prompter, not the audience.

Hillary Clinton, by the way, clearly did not have a Teleprompter during her speech last night.

And speaking of the junior Senator from New York, we received a couple of emails from viewers who took exception to our calling Hillary Clinton, on second, third and fourth references within the same story, "Mrs. Clinton."

The complaint was that we say Mrs. to describe Sen. Clinton while calling her opponent Senator Obama.

It's a fair point, except that I suspect people hear the word "Mrs." more than they hear the word "Mr." -- which I say frequently. We too are sensitive to words that, unnecessarily, describe a woman's marital status. Although, to be fair, Clinton's relationship to her husband is of some import.

But while I may refer to Clinton or Obama or McCain or Bush here in this column without a title, I do not like to call an elected official by just their last name on the air. Similarly, I will not - ever -- say "Hillary" or "Barack" or "Brittney."

So, for the record, I do put a Mrs. or Mr. or Sen. before someone's last name on second reference. I will try to make sure I do it in the same quantity for everyone.

And thanks for your emails.

We're also in Danbury, Connecticut tonight, where the heat is on -- for a vote at the Common Council on whether to authorize the Danbury Police Chief to partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin checking people's immigration status. It is a highly controversial proposal - and if it passes in Danbury, look for similar proposals in other communities. The feds would love to have this happen. Civil rights activists - not so much.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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