by Max Brantley
My sense is that Barack Obama's moment has arrived for a combination of reasons -- his own brains and eloquence, supercharged emotion among supporters, a superior grassroots organization, deeply embedded loathing of Hillary Clinton, sexism, etc.
I predicted he'd win the Democratic nomination in a public appearance before polls closed Super Tuesday, a day that went reasonably well for Hillary Clinton. I've been wrong before. For the record, on the jump, is the Clinton campaign's analysis, by chief strategist Mark Penn. It includes a response to the notion of undeniable "momentum." He makes many good points. But it all means nothing without Clinton wins in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Do the Virginia results really signal an end to the coalition that was once expected to give her those victories? That's what elections are all about.
IMITATION/FLATTERY/ETC.: McCain spokesman says Obama has plagiarized his economic plan from Hillary Clinton.
THE OBAMA LOVE-IN: Columbia Journalism Review.
Instead, the press has often reveled in the absurdity it has created, portraying Obama as a kind of postmodern commentary incarnate (ceci n’est pas un homme politique): he’s post-partisan, post-racial, post-everything-that-we’d-want-to-change. He is so resonant with meaning, apparently, that he transcends meaning itself. “Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause—other than an amorphous desire for change—the message is becoming dangerously self-referential,” Time’s Joe Klein put it last week. “The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.”
Or, even more popular, about what a scheming, conniving, rhymes-with-witch his opponent is.
MEMO FROM CLINTON CAMPAIGN
To: Interested Parties
From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist
Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Re: The Path to the Nomination
This election will come down to delegates. Votes are still being counted and delegates apportioned, but Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are separated by approximately 40 delegates right now – that is, barely 1% of all the delegates to the Democratic convention.
Change Begins March 4th. Hillary leads in the three largest, delegate rich states remaining: Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These three states have 492 delegates – 64 percent of the remaining delegates Hillary Clinton needs to win the nomination. According to the latest polls, Hillary leads in Texas (IVR Jan 30-31), Pennsylvania (Franklin & Marshall Jan 8-14) and Ohio (Columbus Dispatch Jan 23-31). After March 4th, over 3000 delegates will be committed, and we project that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be virtually tied with 611 delegates still to be chosen in Pennsylvania and other remaining states. This does not even include Florida and Michigan (where Hillary won 178 delegates), whose votes we believe should be counted.
The reason Hillary is so strong in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania is that her message of delivering solutions resonates strongly with voters in those states. Hillary is the only candidate who can deliver the economic change voters want – the only candidate with a real plan and a record of fighting for health care, housing, job creation and protecting Social Security.
The demographics in these states also favor Hillary Clinton. Hillary won among white women by 6 points in Virginia and 18 points in Maryland, and white women make up a much bigger share of the electorate in these states (41% of 2004 Ohio Democratic primary voters, for instance, compared with only 33-35% of 2008 Maryland and Virginia Democratic primary voters). Hillary has also won large majorities among Latinos nationwide – 73% in New York, 67% in California, 68% in New Jersey, 62% in New Mexico, 59% in Florida and 55% in Arizona. Latinos made up 24% of Texas Democratic primary voters in 2004, and may be an even larger share in 2008.
Hillary Clinton has shown that she has the ability and organization to compete financially and on the ground. She raised 10 million dollars in just three days last week, and will be competitive with Barack Obama in fundraising and TV advertising from now through March 4th and beyond. She has a strong organization in each of these key states and endorsements from Governor Strickland, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and former Senator John Glenn in Ohio. Hillary had a huge 12,000 person rally in El Paso last night to kick off her Texas campaign.
Again and again, this race has shown that it is voters and delegates who matter, not the pundits or perceived “momentum.” After Iowa, every poll gave Barack Obama a strong lead in New Hampshire, but he ended up losing the state. And after a defeat in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton went on to win by large margins in California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
As history shows, the Democratic nomination goes to the candidate who wins the most delegates – not the candidate who wins the most states. In 1992, Bill Clinton lost a string of primaries before clinching the nomination. He ceded Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Vermont and South Dakota. Similarly, in 1984, Walter Mondale also lost a series of major primaries before winning the nomination, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Colorado, Ohio, and California. And in 1976, Jimmy Carter lost twenty-three states before winning the nomination, including: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah.