Parting thoughts on Super Tuesday

On second thought: True, the moved-up California primary gave the state a taste of real participation in the presidential nomination process for the first time in decades. Still, with the way the Democratic contest has evolved, just imagine the spotlight -- and the attention Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama would have lavished -- if the state had maintained its early March primary.

Delegate discombobulation: The latest twist in this season's turbulent campaign is that the Republicans, who had seemed hopelessly fractured, apparently will settle on a nominee long before the Democrats. One reason: Democrats, unlike the GOP, award convention delegates in a way that not only takes a math degree to understand but often gives limited rewards to the top vote-getter in a primary. Example: Clinton's solid victories this week in the big states of California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts do not translate into a significant advantage in delegates.

Democrats once required a two-thirds delegate majority for claiming the party's nomination. In 1924, it took 103 convention ballots -- and more than a week -- for a winner to emerge. Eventually the party changed its rules, requiring a simple majority for the nomination. If Clinton and Obama slug it out for months to come, might that spur a look at the delegate allocation system?

Scoring political points: Two Democrats heightened their profile within the national party, based on Tuesday's results. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was just one of many leading party members who endorsed Clinton in California, but he also was one of those who worked the hardest for her. His messy breakup with his wife -- as well as his utter lack of background in foreign policy matters -- presumably eliminates him as a vice presidential contender, should Clinton nail down her party's nomination.

Still, if Clinton is the nominee, Villaraigosa's efforts on her behalf should pay undeniable political dividends for him.

Should Obama win the prize, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri will be among those with increased political clout. She embraced his cause a few weeks ago, worked doggedly for him and helped drag her state into his column -- a key win for him.

-- Don Frederick

Frederick is one of the writers of The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/topoftheticket.

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