Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In De-Brief

In his last campaign speeches before the Virginia vote, Bill Clinton made a veiled reference to the Obama campaign as smoke and mirrors. In fact the Potomac Primaries look like a forest fire. Virginia was supposed to be Hillary's best hope: Obama won it 64% to 35%. It looks like he'll win the closed Democratic primary in Maryland with over 60%, and he won DC by an astounding 75% to 24%.

Two media narratives emerged: that Obama had won key demographics that Clinton counts on in contests ahead: older, blue collar, Catholic, Latino. He again split the white vote (as in CA). He's piling up even greater majorities in his strength areas: African Americans, young voters, more affluent Democrats, plus Independents and Republicans. Although black voters constitute about 30% in Virginia, that was enough to win him the majority of women, although Hillary's last bastion remains white women. Perhaps most ominously for Texas, Ohio and PA, he won strongly among white men.

The second narrative, quantified by Chuck Todd at NBC, is that Obama's lead in delegates won in primaries and caucuses may be insurrmountable. Hillary must get 60% of the vote in Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Howard Fineman of NBC reported that if Hillary is down by more than 100 delegates when the primaries are over, she's finished. Struggling for super-delegates at that point would make the nomination not worth having. Right now, most delegate counts (including or excluding estimates of super-delegates) have Obama ahead, and he's ahead in total popular votes. At this point, not even counting Florida and Michigan would be able to save Hillary.

Put them together you have: Obama the frontrunner. Obama is the buzz.

Meanwhile the Clinton campaign shakeup continued. Her deputy campaign manager, who was close to her fired campaign manager, has resigned. Later it became known that two key members of the Hillary internet effort have been "reassigned." And as a possible precursor already to the flight of Clinton super-delegates, Bill Clinton's campaign manager in 1992 is expected to endorse Obama, and help him out both in Ohio and among super-delegates.

Obama's victory speech was in Madison, Wisconsin, before 18,000 enthusiasts a week before that state's primary. It was his stump speech with significant additions. Some were stylistic: he was using his own life more as an example of points he made. Some were political: he began focusing on John McCain, and began referring to the "Bush-McCain" Republicans. He hit harder on the war in Iraq, and he emphasized economic issues.

Although Wisconsin seems hospitable to the Hillary appeal, it mirrors Virginia in so many ways--especially in being an open primary--that there's some but not a lot of prospects for her there, especially since she's already concentrating on Texas, two weeks later.

Speaking of Texas, a couple of Texan politicians were interviewed, and both seemed to feel that Obama's chances there are better than advertised. He's appealing to the younger Latinos, where there are a lot of them, and because of the intracacies of the Texas system, Obama's appeal to black voters is given greater weight. One guy also said that white Texas men disdain Hillary. She's campaigning this week along the border in heavily Latino areas. They thought concentrating her efforts there was a risky strategy.

Ohio may be a different landscape in three weeks, but right now Hillary is substantially ahead in the polls, and is reportedly about to be endorsed by space hero and former Senator from Ohio John Glenn. You have to figure that Ohio is where John Edwards can help, if he endorses Obama and campaigns for him there. But with a large black population and support by key mayors in big cities, plus a large student population, Obama is not going to get blown out in any event.

As for the impact of the day and the night, it's impossible to measure yet. I frankly feel a little stunned myself. Donna Brazile referred to the Obama campaign as a "metaphysical force" in this campaign. I don't really know what she meant exactly, but she's probably right.

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