Winner Take Not-Enough

Ezra Klein and John Sides explore how winner-take-all rules killed Romney's chances; they also note that if the Democrats were operating under GOP-style rules, Hillary Clinton would be performing slightly better than she is. Which gets at the nub of what's been wrong with her campaign's post-Super Tuesday strategy: She's been campaigning as if the Democratic primaries were winner-take-all, essentially giving up on the run of states where Obama looked likely to win (thus allowing him to rack up huge margins of victory, and overtake her in the delegate count) while doubling down on the later states where she's ahead. It's the Giuliani strategy all over again, in a sense - except that the Giuliani strategy at least made sense in theory, because it promised to deliver Rudy an enormous delegate haul in winner-take-all states like Florida, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. (A haul that McCain eventually claimed, as it happens.) Whereas even if Hillary's strategy works, it won't really work, since she'd need enormous, unrealistic margins in Texas and Ohio to make up the ground she lost by essentially ceding two weeks worth of contests to Obama.

Her only hope, I think, is that Jeff Greenfield is on to something with his Slate speculation today:

Judging by the state's demographics and by its political history, Wisconsin ought to be prime territory for a strong Clinton showing. Indeed, its potential for Hillary is so promising that it's worth pondering whether the "on to Texas and Ohio!" battle cry of her campaign might be one huge head fake, designed to turn a strong Clinton showing—much less a victory—into one of those "Oh my God, what a shocker!" reactions that changes the whole tenor of the political conversation.

But even if that's the strategy, it's too clever by half. Why head-fake and aim for a below-the-radar pyrrhic victory, when a full-throttle campaign might earn you an actual (and desperately-needed) win instead?

These are the questions, I suspect, that Bill Clinton will be pondering over many a late-night game of Oh Hell come 2009.