The State of the Race


Obama won the Wisconsin primary last night by 17 points, just when people were saying Hillary’s plagiarism ads were making inroads. He won among “working class” voters. He won among whites. He came within 2 points among women.

It’s hard to think up a reason why WI doesn’t count, as the joke goes. It’s a primary, not a caucus. It doesn’t have a lot of black voters. It’s not a red state. It is an open primary, however, so maybe that’s the Clinton campaign’s “out” on this one. But 17 points? Yikes. And this is a state she was almost universally expected to win a narrow victory in, even after Super Tuesday.

With the big WI loss, her roughly 150-delegate deficit, her lead narrowing in Texas, and her campaign inexplicably just recently noticing how the Texas primary-caucus hybrid works, it’s possible Obama could pretty well seal the deal on Mar. 4th, when Texas and Ohio open their polls. He can’t win enough delegates to have a majority, but if he wins TX or OH, he will have a big enough lead and enough momentum that the intra-party pressure on Hillary to concede will become enormous.

Of course, indications thus far are that she won’t care about any of that. Her campaign still says the race will be decided not by the pledged delegates (i.e., the voters), but by the superdelegates (i.e., the fatcats). Rumor has it her campaign bus has one of those bumper stickers: “I’ll give up my candidacy when you pry it out of my cold, dead hand.”

But if she loses in TX or OH and still stays in the race, it’s hard to see what her rationale would be — that is, I don’t see how she could possibly win. She would have basically no chance of finishing the primaries with more pledged delegates than Obama. As it is, even before those races, she pretty much has to win every remaining primary by 20-point margins. That being the case, it’s hard to imagine that even her superdelegates won’t start fleeing like the proverbial rats, if she loses TX or OH. Actually, given the numbers, they might jump ship even if Hillary doesn’t win both of those states by huge margins, which she almost certainly will not do.

As best I can tell, Hillary’s campaign is effectively over. The numbers are just too much against her, now. Her campaign strategy seems to have been predicated on knocking out all competition on Super Tuesday, and when that didn’t happen, she had no strategy at all for the remaining races. She basically took a pass on the races in LA, VA, DC, and MD, and didn’t have a clear message in states where she did campaign, like WI and WA. Since Super Tuesday, all her strategists have been able to do is point to TX and OH and mutter, “Firewall.” But after losing so badly in the string of races between Super Tuesday and TX/OH, she’s in a position where defensive thinking like “firewall” just won’t get it done. Obama now has the firewall known as “more delegates.” Hillary has to get out from behind her defenses and go on the offensive: she’s got to start some fires, not hide from them. Having staked everything on TX and OH, she now has to win HUGE in both states, just to stay alive.

BTW, how long before we start seeing Amy Poehler on SNL doing for “firewall” what Darrell Hammond did for “lockbox?”


3 Responses to “The State of the Race”

  1. captmidknight Says:

    “Rumor has it her campaign bus has one of those bumper stickers: “I’ll give up my candidacy when you pry it out of my cold, dead hand.”
    If that’s true, it should play pretty well in Texas.

    Unlike some other times, you’ll get no argument from me on this one. Your analysis seems right on the money. Doesn’t it make you a little nervous, though, to agree with Karl Rove?

    Time does seem to be running out for Clinton Inc, but I still have a hard time believing that she’ll go quietly or gracefully. There certainly will be a lot of pressure on them not to take it all the way to the convention – especially since the Republican side is already settled. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

    As I said, I’m conflicted on this one. To see the Clintons taken out by their own party will please me personally, but politically, I think McCain would have a better chance against her than Obama. A mystique has developed around him that Hillary will never have, and, as you have pointed out, a lot of people vote perception rather than substance.

    In politics, an ounce of image is truly worth a pound of performance.

  2. ari Says:

    I think it’s now fair to say that, barring some totally bizarre event, she can only win through what many, if not most, voters will view as treachery: buying off the superdelegates (because why else would they vote for her), seating the MI and FL delegates, or, worst of all, convincing some of Obama’s pledged delegates to switch sides.

    That said, there is one other scenario that might allow her to eke out victory: winning TX (narrowly) and OH and PA (both handily). Then we’ll hear this argument: I did exactly what I said I would do; my firewall worked; I’m the one with the momentum now. And that might actually hold true in NC or wherever else the really late primaries are being held. If that happens, she’ll get the supers to stick with her. And she’ll win a war of attrition. But that’s a huge longshot, particularly because I think she might lose TX and won’t win OH or PA by the huge margins she needs.

    Also: I just don’t see the party deciding to back a losing horse. And at this point, she looks like she’s come up lame in the home stretch (okay, none more with the horse metaphor, I promise). She’s down in the popular vote, down in the delegate count, has no money, has a campaign in turmoil, and doesn’t seem to know the rules in TX (as you point out). So, why would party insiders stick their necks out for her? Fear? Sure, everyone knows the Clintons have long memories. But you only fear the candidate you think is going to win. Loyalty? That’s a joke. The Clintons are notorious for leaving friends dangling when times are tough. An expectation that she’s the better choice for the general? That seems unlikely, given the national polling. But I suppose a combination of the known commodity, coupled with racism, could force the establishment to choose her. But I just don’t see it. I think she fights through the TX and OH primaries. And, assuming she doens’t win both, she’s done. No cold, dead hands. There’s no margin in fighting to the end for her. She knows the rules of the game. She’d damage her future prospects too much if things get ugly. And she has to believe that the odds are better that Obama loses the general and she comes back to win next time than she steals the nomination at the convention if everything’s going against her.

    Wow, that was really long. Sorry. I’m a lousy guest.

  3. urbino Says:

    Not at all. Good stuff. Especially since we agree.

    I think there’s no chance of some of the wackier possible strategies actually being implemented. Trying to poach pledged delegates, for instance, or getting control of the credentials committee at the convention, and thereby seating the FL and MI delegates. The party would come down on her campaign like the proverbial ton of bricks.

    Which just makes it even stranger that her campaign keeps publicly floating such mad notions. How can they not know it plays directly into the worst stereotypes about her?

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