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One last crunch of the Wisconsin numbers

February 20, 2008 |  3:49 pm

Ostensibly, both of Wisconsin's presidential primaries were old-fashioned routs. But there actually was a cliffhanger that unfolded Tuesday night: Which winner, Barack Obama or John McCain, would claim the largest margin of victory?

It was surprisingly nip-and-tuck, given that McCain's main opponent is running on fumes while Obama's last rival draws upon a vaunted political machine and remains financially viable. In the end (well, more precisely, with 99.97% of the vote counted), McCain won his race by a wee bit more than Obama won his.

McCain's margin over Mike Huckabee: 17.85 percentage points.

Obama's over Hillary Clinton: 17.37 percentage points.

Two other numbers ... 

reflect the stark difference in voter interest generated by the dueling primaries.

In the Democratic race, more than 1,110,000 ballots were cast. The tally on the GOP side didn't quite reach 410,000.

Too much can be made of disparities in primary turnout. In Wisconsin, the Democratic face-off seemed more competitive and compelling than the Republican battle. So with either contest open to any voter, it's not surprising that a much larger share of independents -- as well as some Republicans -- would decide to choose between Obama and Clinton.

How these folks voted Tuesday is not necessarily predictive of what they will do come November. Still, here's the number that should give GOP officials pause: the total turnout in the party's Wisconsin primary fell more than 40,000 votes short of what Clinton, in her distant second-place finish, garnered.

The difference between the entire Republican vote and just Obama's sum: more than 235,000.

-- Don Frederick