When the United States begins to break up – in about 2050 or so – Vermont will be one of the first to go. This state of dairy farmers, antique sellers, Ben and Jerry and draft dodgers which is within reach of the Canadian border not only rebelled against the British, it rebelled against the Americans, splitting off from New York State in 1777, and maintaining itself as an independent republic until 1791.

It sends to Congress the only representative – the tireless Bernie Sanders – who describes himself as a socialist, and it also elects a Republican governor, albeit one to the left of most Democrats. It was never going to go Clinton’s way once the Obamaslide started, and with about 7% of the primary vote counted as I write, it’s looking like the margin will be between 55-60 to about 40-24 for Clinton, the three stray percentage going to Edwards, Kucinich and other waifs and strays on the ballot or – who knows, it being Vermont – Jerry Garcia or Harvey the Rabbit.

Rhode Island, the other east coast state in the race, doesn’t close its polls till later, but all the pundits are saying it may be a more difficult one for Obama because the state has the highest proportion of Catholics in the country, around 60% of the population. Why do they think this would be a factor? Because there is simply nothing else to say.

Every other demographic variant is nailed down and bleeding from a dozen orifices. We’ve looked at half-white hispanic blue collar female registered Democrats as compared to half-white asian pink collar male independents yadayada, and every variant in between. Rockchoppers is just about all that’s left, and it is only a matter of time before Mac-PC, HD-Blu-Ray, bitch and dom variants are factored in.

With no less desperation, the networks are simultaneously parsing the sliver of votes – less than 1% – out of Texas and Ohio, for something to say, which usually commences with “well, it’s too early to say”. Currently Hillary is taking Ohio 60 to 40, and Obama Texas by the same margin. The Obama margin in Texas looks ridiculous, given the high support Hillary commands from the Hispanic community. If it holds, then something has gone seriously wrong – again – with her campaign, and ditto with Obama’s in Ohio.

Either result seems unlikely and both together would simply be too much of a headroot to cope with, and one can only presume that both votes will come into about 53-47, or even within that, by vote’s end. It doesn’t help that something has gone weird at CNN, where they’re reporting that less than 1% of Texas precincts are reporting but listing the total votes from those precincts as around 700,000. This would suggest a total vote of 70 million, which I suggest is in excess, and it seems to me that a wrong set of numbers has been loaded in at either end.

Whatever the case, there ain’t going to be a Texas result anytime soon. I’m downtown in the vast concrete hell of Houston, a once-grand city which appears to have woken up one morning in the 70s and thought “know what would look really good here – eighty blocks of multi-storey carparks”. Folksy it aint. If you’re reading this you can presume that I haven’t been mugged for my laptop.

Anyway, a few blocks down from the maximum security Greyhound station, in a hotel ballroom, they’re assembling for one of the precinct caucuses that will award the final one third of the primary votes. This is a small one, but there are reports of queues of up to 200 wanting to get in, insufficient space, possibility of multiple sittings, etc etc. Hitherto this was hardcore political junkie territory, since the deal was done long before the Texas primary occurred – and the only people turning up were those who wanted to select their local school board etc etc.

In terms of public education, health care, etc Texas is pretty much down there on the bottom, and Austin aside – a sort of grand corral for all the state’s freaks – the big cities have an edgy air to them. There’s no pretence here that patronage, or at the very least ethnicity, doesn’t figure in the calculus – that Obama is for the blacks and Hillary is “for the maids” as someone pretty crudely put it. Pretty much the same thing as in South Carolina – a lot of people unwilling to talk about politics beyond polite answers to one or two questions.

On the Republican side, McCain is hoping that tonight’s results will be enough to take him over the edge, with the 1191 delegates he needs to calim pre-convention victory, and a rumour that Bush will, if this occurs, endorse him tomorrow, which is like hearing that Jeffrey Dahmer’s coming to lunch. He is running about 56% to 32% in Texas currently, with about 300,000 votes counted, which the frikkin machine is telling me is 2% of the precincts which must be bullsh-t.

Huckabee might have been hoping for a better result, but 32% is a good result, given that it is effectively a protest vote against the presumed encumbent. And a pretty worrying one for McCain, suggesting the big splits he will have to do to keep both the middle ground and the whacko right to use the psehological term. Already he’s pulling back from his ‘in Iraq for 100 years’ pledge coming back to ‘as long as we need to be after the fighting stops’ etc etc.

Ah! CNN says the votes are reports of early voting, hence the screwy numbers.

And also officially projects that McCain has won the GOP nomination on these numbers.

So, from the deathful Lynchesque lobby of a chain hotel in this deathful town that’s the interim report. More later this afternoon if anyone gets shot. Or something.

And there is eerie silence still on the Vermont border …

Peter Fray

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