McCain pulls ahead; Clinton stops the rot

John McCain has scored impressive early successes, and is piling on the votes that matter with actual or projected wins in delegate-heavy New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona, Oklahoma, Delaware and Connecticut. Mike Huckabee has done pretty well too, for somebody thought to be about to withdraw; he has wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and West Virginia (this last a clear case of tactical voting by McCain supporters). Partly because Huckabee has not collapsed, Mitt Romney is struggling. He has four wins so far. If he loses California and its haul of delegates to McCain--and with the polls just closed it seems to be going that way--it is hard to see how he stays in. On Intrade right now you can buy a Romney nomination for less than 5, down five during the course of the evening. McCain will cost you 90.

For the Democrats, it is all about managing expectations. It looks as though both sides are going to be able to claim success. Obama and Clinton are for the most part winning the states they expected to--with the edge to Clinton. She has won in Massachusetts: the polls consistently said she would, though the recent endorsements of the state's governor, Deval Patrick, and a clutch of Kennedys had given Obama hope. Her winning margin in New Jersey looks to be wider than expected too--at least, if one's expectations were based on the Obamania of the past several days. The polls have only just closed in California, but the signs are she is winning there too, thanks to strong support from Latino voters. Obama has done well across the South, and has won Connecticut (against the polls) and Delaware. Offered this a month ago, he would have accepted with gratitude. But a lot changed in that month.

To repeat, the delegate arithmetic for the Democrats is complicated, and way beyond me. Where that count will end up is anybody's guess. (Intrade prices Clinton at 63 right now, up 9 on the night; Obama is down 9 at 37. If if I were free to, I might still buy Obama at that price.) Regardless, at least for now, I'd say the Obama momentum has been checked.