It’s the morning after Whatever People Finally Decided To Call It Tuesday. As the polls consistently showed going in, Clinton won Ohio, withstanding late tightening. She also won the Texas popular vote; though many polls showed Obama taking a small lead, it was (as far as I recall seeing) always within the margin of error. Unfortunately for the Clinton fans, while the delegate count is still ongoing, it looks highly unlikely that Clinton will make any noticeable inroads into Obama’s current delegate lead.
Chris Bowers’ run-down of the results, what they mean, and what we should expect moving forward is a sober account of where we stand.
Looks like Clinton will net about 10-15 delegates tonight, along with about 250,000 popular votes. Overall, Obama will now lead by about 600,000 votes, and 145-150 pledged delegates. Toss in superdelegates, and Obama’s lead cut to about 100-110 delegates. Add in Florida, and Obama leads by about 300,000 votes, and about 65-70 delegates. Throw in a Michigan delegate with zero votes for Obama, and Clinton takes an infinitesimal lead in both counts.
This is why Obama is still the favorite. In order to even force a virtual tie, Clinton needs three contingencies to break her way. Obama, by contrast, will probably wipe out Clinton’s March 4th delegate gains in Wyoming (March 8th) and Mississippi (March 11th), leaving the pledged delegate margin heading into Pennsylvania identical to the margin before yesterday’s contests. However, overall March will still be a victory for Obama, as he continues to cut into Clinton’s superdelegate lead. Rumors are that many more are on the way, too. Overall, despite her wins tonight, at the end of March, Clinton will probably be further behind in delegates than at the start of the month.
I also think Bowers is right in the expectation that the two campaigns will increasingly get nasty with each other. We saw the rhetoric and the attacks heat up over the last two weeks. If that’s a preview of coming attractions, then the next seven weeks are going to be very uncomfortable.
I heartily agree with both Steve Soto’s take on what he’d like to see Hillary Clinton doing as the campaign moves forward with regard to shifting attention to John McCain and Big Tent Democrat’s recognition that the best case scenario is one where both candidates follow Soto’s suggestion.
I believe Steve Soto is on to something when he writes:
What if [Hillary Clinton] instead starts attacking McCain and making the case that she is better able to run as a true Democrat against McCain’s strengths and weaknesses than Obama can? What if she draws the contrast with Obama not with personal or character attacks, but with direct arguments that she is a better advocate for progressive causes and concerns against McCain on issues such as the economy, health care, protecting Social Security, tax fairness, the Supreme Court, energy independence, and the environment? In other words, what if she runs more as a Democrat than he does?
I think Steve’s advice is sound, but not just for Clinton, but for Obama as well. Let’s let the candidates demonstrate who the best candidate to run against McCain is BY RUNNING AGAINST JOHN McCAIN AND THE GOP NOW! Don’t just tell us you would be better against McCain and the Republican Party. Show us!
If I’m stuck with a contest race, despite a current set of rules and delegate math that make it highly unlikely that Clinton can secure a nomination before the Democratic Convention, I’d hope that the candidates recognize that they have the opportunity to prove their general election mettle against John W. McCain now. He’s the target for either nominee and the more energy we can put behind legitimizing attack narratives now – he’s a 3rd Bush term in waiting, he’s beholden to lobbyists, he would take us to war with Iran – the easier it will be for our eventual nominee to fight McCain, uncrippled by a prolonged nomination.
The only way I see us avoiding what Bowers thinks will happen between now and Pennsylvania – and realistically the Soto-BTD vision for attacking McCain is something of a pipe dream when the nomination is still up for grabs – is if the nomination is resolved in the short term. Marc Ambinder notes that “Barack Obama will almost certainly win more delegates in Texas than Clinton.” Couple that with the long delegate math and the contingencies identified by Bowers, and Clinton has very slim chances at the nomination. One thing that repeatedly has been coming up in news coverage of the race is the question of how Clinton staffers are thinking about their chances of winning. Ambinder writes:
Again, a Clinton “recovery” and nomination is not impossible. It just isn’t likely. In the gut of many Clinton advisers 48 hours from now may be the sense that the confetti is ephemeral.
If that happens, if upon reflection and sober strategizing the odds are seen as too long, the contingencies that have to happen too many, it’s possible that senior Clinton staff and advisers will turn against the notion of continuing to fight for the nomination. In that case, we might be able to avoid what at minimum could be a seven week version of Andy Capp vs Florrie Capp tumult of dust and fisticuffs (and at maximum, a fight that extends to the Convention floor in early September).
I don’t have a dog in this fight and, right now at least, I don’t want to make any normative judgments about what either candidate should be doing. As I said above, I’d love to see both focus on attacking McCain and not each other, but that’s wishful thinking. I’ll be curious to see the final vote totals and how yesterday actually impacted the state of the race.