Friday, February 22, 2008

March 4 Predictions

There's been a lot of talk lately about Democratic superdelegates. I'm saving my strength on that front for my thesis next year, but I will say this: I do believe that Barack Obama will ultimately win the Democratic nomination, though I hardly think he's got Hillary Clinton on the mat yet.

The next round of nominating contests are on March 4: Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island. There are four possibile scenarios, supported in part by this Bill Clinton quote: "If she wins in Texas and Ohio, she'll be the nominee. If she doesn't, I don't think she can be. It's all on you."

1. Clinton wins both states by a wide margin, and the contest continues with her as the frontrunner, even though Obama will still have more pledged delegates. (I don't see her getting the 65% needed to overtake him on that front.)
2. Clinton wins both states by a very narrow margin, and the contest continues as a virtual tie where Obama is ahead by a nose. Narrow victories in these two friendly states would close the gap but won't be big enough to give her any momentum.
3. Obama wins either state, and, given the expectations that both favor her, the contest continues with him as a very, very clear frontrunner. I doubt she would drop out, though - not the Clintons, not with superdelegate support and Pennsylvania looming.
4. Obama wins both states and has the nomination virtually locked up. She would almost assuredly drop out.

I would be surprised if number four happens, and surprised but not shocked if it's number three. The first is a little more likely than the third, but I predict the second, for the following reasons. (To be fair, there is a little voice in my gut saying "Obama's going to win both!" but I don't believe it.)

Both states could be affected by Obama's 11 for 11 streak in post-Super Tuesday primaries and caucses. It's also worth noting that Clinton's negative politics failed in Wisconsin (thin accusations of plagiarism) and South Carolina (Bill as attack dog). Voters are finally turning their cyncism about negative attacks and focusless campaigns into action. It helps that the attacks she's using are superficial and easy to see through, and I don't see any new strategy she could come up with in Texas or Ohio save holding her breath for an Obama mistake. And of course, we've all heard about her resource deficit, lack of a post-Super Tuesday strategy, and hilarious staff in-fighting.

In Ohio, Obama may be gaining traction among Hillary's blue-collar base: the state has similar democraphics to Wisconsin, which he won earlier this week by 17 points. She's still up substantially in state polls, but not as much as she was a week ago, and Governor Ted Strickland now worries he can't hold the state for her. Things are even worse for her in Texas. The rules are a caucus-primary hybrid, and Obama does well in caucuses. He's had his best organizers down there for a week or two already, and while she's still way ahead in Latino support, I think he does have more support among them than he used to. What's more, Texas polls are also narrowing, and she certainly didn't score any knock-out blows at last night's UT debate. (It's funny - once upon a time, all it took for us to say she "won" a debate was for her to avoid taking body blows, and now we say she's the one who needs to land them. Ah, punditry.)

So, my predicition is she'll win both states very narrowly but cede the nomination sometime before the Convention. If he does win one, it will most likely be Texas, in which case she'll pull out fairly quickly.

And hey, Vermont? Rhode Island? Don't worry, no one's forgotten about you - we just don't care. :(

(Photo Credit: Austin Statesman)

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