The Rest of the Country Gets an Electoral Tsunami; We Get a Tsunami 

Barack Obama led Hillary Clinton 67 percent to 29 percent in early voting in Shelby County but Clinton was the winner in Tennessee. In the Republican presidential primary, Mike Huckabee and John McCain each had 32 percent of the early vote. (NBC called the state for Huckabee at 10:45.)

Returns were delayed at the Shelby County Election Commission because of the storm and computer problems. Some election commissioners said it could be after midnight before the votes cast Tuesday were counted. But Clinton had such a big lead that Obama cannot catch her, although he will get a share of Tennessee’s 85 delegates.

Early voting returns for the Democratic primary: 21,253 votes cast, 6,182 for Clinton and 14,305 for Obama. In the Republican primary, 9,658 votes cast, 3,130 for Huckabee, 3,099 for McCain, and 2,572 for Mitt Romney.

James Johnson, administrator of elections, said voting machines continued to run on battery power even when the storm knocked out the electricity in some areas.

“We didn’t lose anything,” he said.

He estimated that the turnout would be about 15 percent of Shelby County’s 611,000 voters, or approximately 70,000 votes.

“We haven’t gotten significantly bigger numbers in presidential preference primaries since the early 1980s,” he said.

Polls closed at 7 p.m. The storm hit at about 5 p.m., with residents being urged to stay inside or go to their basements. A spot check of voting precincts in Midtown at 6 p.m. showed three or four voters at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church and two voters at Trinity Methodist Church.

UPDATE: Final tally:

Final unofficial returns for the presidential preference primaries in Shelby County, with all 274 precincts reporting:

Democratic Primary: Total votes, 98,033; Barack Obama, 68,516 (69.89 percent); Hillary Clinton, 27,914 (28.47 percent).

Republican Primary: Total votes, 50,320; Mike Huckabee, 18,930 (37.62 percent); John McCain, 14,852 (29.5 percent); Mitt Romney, 13,735 (27.3 percent); Ron Paul, 352 (3.64 percent).

The Election Commission says there are 611,000 registered voters in the county. If so, then the turnout was 24 percent, which was higher than the 15-20 percent some officials had predicted. There were 13 days of early voting.

On election day, the polls closed on schedule at 7 p.m. despite the heavy storms that swept through the area beginning at 5 p.m.

--John Branston

All the local TV channels had planned significant coverage of Super Tuesday. All would end up junking their election plans and, with all due regrets, sending their talking heads home.

At Channel 5, WMC-TV, that meant Wendi Thomas, Jonathan Lindbergh and myself. At Channel 13, it meant Flyer online columnist Cheri DelBrocco, among others. The fact that all of us, and the gurus lined up by Channels 3, 24, and 30 missed out on facetime and didn't get to dope out the numbers for TV watchers was unimaginably immaterial, of course, given the bona fide Tsunami that surrounded us. Nay, from time to time seemed actively to be threatening us, our families hunkering down at home, and the rest of the Memphis and Mid-South area.

Multiple tornadoes! Waves of tornadoes lasting for hours -and headed, we could tell from the big conference-room TV screen at WMC-TV - right through Shelby County, angling into the heart of the city..

At one point, hail was literally banging off the window of that Channel 5 conference room, the full-length window that ran the length of the room. My colleague John Branston called in once or twice with verbal snapshots of the activity at the Election Commission, but there, too, activity of the normal kind was evidently stalled, with some of the returns delayed.

By switching away from the hard-working Dave Brown, and catching a few minutes of CNN's election coverage, it was possible to find out that Tennessee had been one of the first states called (24 altogether were to be heard from before the night was out). CNN's analysts, and presumably others, gave it to Hillary Clinton - who, early on, had a 20 percent margin, a far larger one that had been anticipated.

That was due almost certainly to the fact - a truism in politics, particularly for Democratic operatives charged with get-out-the-vote activities - that bad weather suppresses working-class votes disproportionately. Especially the kind of extra-bad weather that showed up Tuesday. And even more especially in that the final two hours of voting time were virtually wiped out.

The reason is that working-class folks have ONLY the early-morning hours or the after-work hours to vote. The middle class, especially the homemaker component of it, has much more latitude. Not even to mention the out-and-out professionals -- disproportionately conservative, white, and, where relevant, Republican. So two evening hours of wipe-out is going to hurt the working-class part of the spectrum disproportionately.

And in Memphis, it had been acknowledged by everyone that the black working class would go overwhelmingly for Obama.

Even as I was trying to explain this effect to someone over the telephone, one of CNN's gurus was outlining it for one of the network's panels, widening the eyes of his colleagues with his tales of the stream of tornadoes passing through our town.

But even so, Hillary Clinton would have won Tennessee. Just not by as much. Complete totals from the state and from elsewhere will be posted when we have them

--Jackson Baker



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