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Democratic race far from over

It’s refreshing to read something from the media that doesn’t declare Hillary Clinton’s nomination long before any states have had a chance to vote in their primaries or caucuses.

“Whoever wins the Iowa caucuses will be on the front page of every newspaper in America the next morning, on every talk show and on every news channel. Millions of dollars worth of free media,” said Craig Smith, a Democratic consultant quoted in the St. Petersburg Times.

Winning Iowa is on every candidate’s mind: both John Edwards and Barack Obama were visiting Iowa last week, and Clinton was there last Saturday. Yet the St. Petersburg Times states that Clinton is not a shoo-in – she is not the guaranteed recipient of all this free advertising.

The Florida Democrats are not going to get any votes at the national convention for violating the Democratic National Convention’s (DNC) rules. Florida is holding its primary on Jan. 29, exactly a week before Feb. 5, the acceptable date. However, states like Iowa receive special treatment because they’ve historically hosted the first primary/caucus. They’re allowed to have their caucus more than five weeks before the permitted date.

With visits to Florida erased from their schedule, the Democratic candidates apparently have more time to make for Iowa. Meanwhile, Floridians are going to have to watch Iowa very closely during the next few months, since they don’t have any votes of their own.

If history plays out correctly, Iowa could be foreshadowing the upcoming election’s Democratic candidate. In 2004, Democratic candidate Howard Dean, who was a front-runner before the primaries, fell to third in Iowa and stepped down to John Kerry. Kerry went on to win the nomination, but not the presidency.

The national polls place Clinton far ahead of everyone else. According to the MSNBC national poll, Clinton is roughly 20 points ahead of Obama. Iowa, however, is proving to be less defined. The Zogby International poll for Iowa puts her only three points ahead of Obama at 28 percent and 25 percent, respectively. The CBS News/New York Times poll for Iowa has Edwards as the runner-up with 23 percent. Clinton has pulled 25 percent to her favor and Obama 22 percent.

What this means is that the election is still very much up in the air – as it should be. Candidates started campaigning earlier than ever for this election season – sensing that their registered voters are, in the majority, dissatisfied with the current president. The national trend shows that Clinton is way ahead, causing Democrats who may not be Clinton supporters – yes, they do exist – to lose hope in the race.

Although this doesn’t discourage people from voting for who they want, it’s much easier to fight for someone who mostly everyone likes.

Yet there is hope. Iowa’s unpredictability gives light to those Democrats who aren’t Clinton supporters.

So now Florida Democrats must look to Iowa and other early states to predict trends and nominations. As is the case in Iowa, there is no current trend. In spite of what the media often say, the numbers show that it’s anybody’s race. If everyone thinks and knows who is going to win the race before it’s over, what fun is that? It isn’t – even politics deserves to be cutthroat and exciting once in a while.

Floridian voters shouldn’t be discouraged from voting in the primaries, however. The ability to vote is still there – it’s just that the vote won’t count at the DNC.

Who knows, maybe whichever candidate gets nominated to the Democratic ticket will take pity on Florida and restore its voting rights. Especially if Florida’s votes lean toward that particular candidate.

Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications