Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is Clinton Back? Delegates, delegates, delegates

And the race goes on. As James Carville said on Meet the Press on Sunday--speculating about what Clinton wins in Ohio and Texas would mean for the race--it helps her rewrite the narrative. And it does. Whether it was the ads or backlash against Obama or sympathy for Clinton doesn't matter. What last night's results mean is that the Democratic primary voters are still almost evenly divided as to who their presidential nominee should be. The Obama campaign's contention is that it still maintains a sizable lead in the delegate count and that the results from the four primaries last night do not significantly affect that lead. However, with the wins she managed yesterday, Clinton now has something to back up the argument that all Obama does is win in small and/or red states. All the while she's winning the states that are important to the Democrats in November.

The race now shifts to Wyoming this weekend and Mississippi on next Tuesday. On paper, both look like Obama territory. Wyoming is a caucus state and Mississippi has a high African American population on par with other states Obama has won (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina). But there is a catch. And for Clinton, it easily extends this race to Pennsylvania. [Well, I suppose the press is largely discounting Wyoming and Mississippi anyway; already having shifted the focus to the April 22 contest in the Keystone state.] Those are states and the fact that Obama should win them fits the newly crafted narrative of this race. He wins caucuses, small states and red states. She wins the big prizes. And that can't be welcome news for the Obama camp. If Wyoming and Mississippi are discounted, then his chances of shifting the tenor of this race [again!?!] are diminished in the process. So while Obama may have the delegate lead still, his campaign is now on the defensive.

Oh, and I suppose the supedelegates come into the picture at some point. If the contests between now and next Tuesday can't help Obama, then the report that surfaced yesterday that some number of superdelegates may break for him in the near future might. That becomes a contest of its own; one (and maybe only) that may possibly assist Obama in countering the Clinton wins from last night.

All the while, this race has devolved to certain point of negativity and is unlikely to return. And that brings us back to divisive primaries. If this Democratic race continues the slide into negativity, that affects the party's ability to heal those divisions before the convention and in the time between then and the general election. So McCain sits back and smiles, having wrapped things up officially last night. And who can blame him? The longer the Democratic race strings out, the better his chances in November seem to become.


Rhode Island


I'll be back later with a look ahead to the rules in Wyoming, Mississippi and Pennsylvania. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of looking at polls of Wyoming Democrats.


Robert said...

On the other hand (I'm one of those two-handed scientists Muskie used to complain about), the media will start directing their focus back on Hillary. Things like her tax returns, her White House notes, her problems with financiers and other miscelaneous things that were irrelevant when she was losing will now come back to the forefront. Some commentators this morning were pointing out that we are 8 weeks past Iowa and 7 weeks before Pennsylvania. Much can happen between now and then. Chuck Todd (MSNBC) made an interesting point this morning that the way the race will not be over until one of the candidates wins on the other's turf (e.g. Obama wins in PA or Clinton wins in NC). Absent that it will all come down to the superdelegates.

Josh Putnam said...

I think there will be plenty of time to fully scrutinize both candidates before PA. But if the Clinton team just threw the kitchen sink at Obama, they may not have much left. For Clinton though, as you say, there is a lot out there.

The DNC is going to have to intervene in some way, albeit in the background. They can't let the negativity persist for seven weeks and beyond. The superdelegates are back in the picture (not that they ever left) and I think their primary, from March 12 to April 21, will be the most crucial. The DNC may put pressure on the undecided superdelegates from states that have already conducted contests to make a decision. I'm grasping at straws here, but you have got to think the national party wants to avoid a seven week slugfest.

The trick is trying to pull that off without appearing to be meddling in the process. And that ain't easy.