The 'greater Arkansas' primary

March 10, 1992

Super Tuesday is going to be a big delegate-winning day for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, according to all the polls, but a glance at the map shows why all it will prove about his candidacy is that he is a regional favorite. One of the three states holding caucuses today and five of the eight states holding primaries share a border with Arkansas.

All told, Missouri (caucus) and Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma (primaries) will elect 443 of the 783 delegates at stake today (100 superdelegates not included) in those states plus Florida, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Governor Clinton, who is already far ahead in the delegate race -- with nearly twice as many as Paul Tsongas and almost five times as many as Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. -- is going to have quite a lead after today. That is if, as all assume, he rolls in the states bordering his own and gets a good vote even if he does not win in Florida. He could lose as badly as the polls suggest he might in New England and still come out with Wednesday's victory headlines.

A Boston Globe poll shows local favoritism is not confined to "greater Arkansas." Mr. Tsongas, a former Massachusetts senator, leads Governor Clinton in the state by 64 percent to 8 percent. Last Saturday, Governor Clinton defeated Mr. Tsongas in South Carolina's primary by 63-19 percent and should do as well in Southwestern states today. Regionalism is not a new development, of course. In 1976, Jimmy Carter of Georgia and George Wallace of Alabama between them averaged above 80 percent of the Southern states' primary vote in a crowded field of well-known Democrats. In 1980, Mr. Carter, his national popularity at near-record lows, averaged above 60 percent in the South, while his opponent, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, did that well in New England primaries.

Today's voting is likely to be only a warm-up for a real test of the candidates in the neutral territory of Illinois and Michigan next Tuesday.

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