The pundits and media are speculating about what exactly will determine who will be the Democratic nominee as it becomes increasingly likely that neither Senator Obama or Senator Clinton will have enough delegates amassed. With the Republicans already having a de facto nominee with John McCain, many worry that the GOP will be able to campaign vigorously while the Democrats do not have a candidate to respond.
The long Democratic campaign for president, however, may actually be helping the Democratic Party. It has forced Democrats to compete for votes in states that have been ignored in the past 2 election cycles. Before Super Tuesday, Sen. Obama held a rally in Idaho. When was the last time a Democratic candidate for president even visited the state of Idaho? The Democrats have basically conceded the giant L shape that cuts through the map of the United States comprised of the Great Plains and Southeast for the past 20 years, while taking support on the West Coast and in the Northeast for granted. The battle for the White House has been fought in the trenches of the midwest.
This split decision primary has forced the two remaining Democratic candidates to compete for every single delegate in every single state and terrirtory. This battle for delegates has forced Democrats to campaign in states that they have written off for years. With the candidates campaigning in these states, and Howard Dean creating a "50 state strategy" for the Democratic Party, many states that are considered in the "red state" column may be in play for Democrats.
I'm not saying that we should count on Idaho or Utah to vote Democrat in November, but I do think that many of the voters in these states apreciate the candidates actually stopping by to spread thier message. It certainly says something for a candidate like Barack Obama when he can turnout nearly 20,000 people in a small conservative state like Idaho to hear him speak.
With primaries scheduled through June, the Democrats may have to battle it out until the end of Spring before we know who will be going to the convention with a majority of pledged delegates. All of these primary dates also include small numbers of states; therefore the candidates can focus exclusively on these contests. Following the big make or break primary for Senator Clinton on March 4th in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island comes states that have been more difficult for Democrats in the past. Sens. Obama and Clinton will likely be campaigning for the support of voters from Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.
This long campaign through unfamiliar terroitory may ultimately help build support for the eventual Democratic nominee. It will at least do something that has not happened for several election cycles; give every voter in every state a voice when it comes to who will be the next president.