From Kos's counting, the night barely changes anything in the delegate math. Clinton wins Ohio 73 - 68 and Rhode Island 12 to 8. Obama wins Vermont 9 to 6 and wins Texas by 99 to 94 (because his narrow loss in the primaries is offset by a lop-sided win in the caucuses). These numbers may change a little as full caucus results come in, but not by much. Once all the dust has cleared, Obama's delegate lead remains. RCP has it at 1542 for Obama and 1447 for Clinton.
I see no reason why this race shouldn't continue, and that it shouldn't continue all the way. As a journalist, this is good news. It's certainly great copy, as they say on Fleet Street. But I see no way that the Clintons can actually win it without re-opening Michigan and Florida, and shifting the super-delegates by super-human amounts. The result will probably be a slow, Limbaugh-friendly trashing of Obama - because Clinton has only gained traction by attacking him, or raising fears about him, rather than by a positive campaign for herself.
But the show must go on, because the Clintons' egos demand it, and because as long as Obama has not crossed the magic line definitively, the destiny of the Clintons to run America for sixteen years must always be pursued. Ask Sid Blumenthal why. It's also vital for the Clintons psychologically to undermine Obama's appeal. He represents a systematic rebuke of their style of politics, their tactics and their worldview. If they can manage to damage him enough, even if he wins the nomination, their own sense of their own historical importance will be assuaged. Maybe they can damage him enough to ensure that McCain beats him in the fall. That would, at some level, satisfy them. To be beaten in a Democratic primary is bad enough; but if their opponent goes on to win the presidency, it would be unbearable for them, close to an indictment. That is what is fueling them: the terror of an Obama presidency and history re-written with Clinton as a minor footnote in the minor 1990s.
Obama supporters should not be dismayed.
Obama has a tougher, nastier opponent in the Clintons than he does in McCain. If he wins this by a long, grueling struggle, he will be more immune to the lazy, stupid criticism that he is some kind of flash in the pan, he has more opportunity to prove that there is a great deal of substance behind the oratory, he has more of a chance to meet and talk with the electorate he will need to win in the fall.
I think the argument for Obama is easily strong enough to withstand the egos of the Clintons. The more people see that her case is almost entirely a fear-based one and his is almost entirely a positive one, the more he will win the moral victory as well as the delegate count. In the cold light of day, the bruising news that the Clintons are not yet dead seems less onerous.
(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty.)