Obama's impressive sweep of the latest primaries and caucuses renews and strengthens the momentum he had in the days before Super Tuesday. His support seems to be be deepening and broadening; and Hillary's lead among women and lower-income households (two of her three most loyal constituencies: the third is Hispanics) seems to be wavering. But in case you're thinking that Hillary is finished--as I am inclined to--see this interesting corrective from Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics. Demographics rather than momentum can explain the new results, according to this analysis. The race might still go all the way to the convention.
And though he would say this, wouldn't he, Mark Penn, Hillary's chief strategist, thinks that she still has a path to the nomination.
Plainly Hillary needs to win, and win big, in delegate-laden Texas and Ohio on March 4th. Even if she succeeds there, her campaign will need to lean on the party's "superdelegates" (party officials and other grandees, whose votes are worth thousands of the ordinary kind) to support her. Would they be willing to do that, if she was behind both in the popular vote within the party and in the share of pledged delegates? If I were a superdelegate, and even if I were convinced that Hillary was the better choice, I would not be willing: it is just too blatantly undemocratic.
And what about the delegates from Michigan and Florida, which the party disqualified when the states defied the ruling over the timing of their primaries? Both voted for Hillary, but nobody campaigned in either place and in Michigan Obama wasn't even on the ballot. Asked on CNN whether the Clinton campaign would call for some kind of rerun of those elections, one of Hillary's helpers blandly said that there was no need: those results were in, and it was just a question of un-disenfranchising the voters. If Hillary did get the nomination thanks to the party's uber-voters and to some kind of legal stunt involving Michigan and Florida, I would expect to hear fewer complaints from Democrats in future about Bush-Gore 2000. But I cannot see the Democratic party electorate standing for this--and, in any case, what would such squalid manoeuvrings do for the candidate's chances in the general election?
If Hillary's campaign collapses with defeat in Texas or Ohio, that will be the moment to concede gracefully. She could move on from this defeat with something of her reputation intact. I bet her truest friends are starting to wish for this outcome. But if those states leave her with a meaningful chance of the nomination--so long as she bends every rule and exerts every kind of pressure to get the result--we will find out just how much of her own reputation and her party's prospects she is prepared to stake on this venture.
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