Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: WIS, HI (D), WA(R) Editions: More Big Wins for McCain and Obama

So on the Republican side not much new news, McCain contnues slowly waltzing to officially wrapping things up with comfortable wins again in Wisconsin and Washington. Huckabee still pulls a respectable showing but I think he will be out for sure after March 4th.

On the Democratic Party side it was a huge night for Obama and a very rough night for Hillary Clinton. I said previously that until I saw some polls that showed her lead in Ohio and Texas narrowing to less than she needs to have a convincing win there I would still consider her in good shape. However, now we have seen polls showing her with just a single digit lead there and she needs more than that to get the momentum back. Worse for her, Obama did significantly better in Wisconsin that almost any poll indicated he would. Many people thought she would keep close or maybe even squeak out a win and instead she did about as well as Mike Huckabee did percentage wise and Obama tripled her vote in Hawaii (which is definitely much worse than what her campaign had predicted). So this all has to be pretty disappointing for her.

So I would say now it's safe to say Hillary has become the underdog in this race given the thumping she took last night and the must-win big scenarios she will need to get back in this race to make up for last night's poor showing.

She's not out yet though. If she does pull off big wins in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania she'd be able to confidently go toe to toe with Obama for a long time yet. But those big wins she needs seem just a bit less likely right now.

Though she may be tempted to go strongly negative against Obama to try to blunt his momentum after 10 straight wins, I think that would be a huge mistake for her. Obama didn't get to the front of the pack by being strongly negative, he got there I think because he gave Democrats something they would want to vote FOR (you may not buy everything Obama is saying but you can't deny that a lot of Democrats like what they hear from him).

Hillary can and should try everything she can to do the same and put forth a strong positive vision of why she would be the best President and resist the urge to go negative. Going negative hasn't worked for her in the past (see Wisconsin for the evidence as she ran negative attacks ads there all week) and she's now losing key demographics she once commanded to Obama. I think she has a chance to win these people back, but she also has a chance to slide further behind if she goes into attack mode. That said, if Obama commits a gaffe she has every reason to pounce on it but other than that I think she'd fare better in this campaign and any future ones by staying above the fray and outlining every way she can why Americans need her running the Oval Office.

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