Before the 2008 primary/caucus schedule got squeezed to within an inch of 2007, there was a nifty national strategy available to candidates: Bank votes in big states by absentee ballot before Iowa and New Hampshire have a chance to upend national public opinion.
I was speaking to strategist Chris Lehane earlier this year and he outlined the way this strategy might work out:
"There could be more Democrats who will vote absentee in Los Angeles county than Democrats who cast votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina combined. And they could vote before the first caucus in Iowa."
Well, that was when the Iowa caucus was scheduled for next Monday, January 14.
As it stands, California's absentee voters, who make up roughly 40 percent of the primary electorate, will be getting their ballots later this week, perhaps tomorrow. If everything goes according to the polling, that's the day after Barack Obama will have sealed his second victory over Hillary Clinton in a romp.
All of which means that Obama can now start locking in his Big Mo before he ever gets to South Carolina or Nevada. California loves to vote for a winner. And there's something Schwarzenegger-ian about Obama's sunny post-partisanship. Even if Clinton somehow forges a comeback between now and Palmetto State, Obama will have been busy cherry picking from the motherlode of convention delegates.
This is similarly bad news for Rudy Giuliani. His big state gamble will be looking worse and worse if John McCain emerges victorious tonight. Like Obama his win could beget a much bigger win among the Golden State's GOP and independent absentee voters.
There was talk that the revamped primary schedule might minimize the importance of the tiny early states. Right now Iowa and New Hampshire are looking like the butterflies whose flapping wings will give rise to Obama's perfect storm.