So this past Tuesday has another big night. For the Republicans, no big surprises, I predicted McCain would wrap things up on March 4th and he did. For the Democrats though it's a whole new ball game again. Watching the CNN coverage you could tell the Clinton campaign played their cards right over the past two weeks. Remember after Obama's 11th straight victory so many people were saying that she had to win HUGE in Ohio AND Texas in order to stay in the race. So she won Ohio by 10% (not huge compared to Obama's recent margins) and Texas by 4% (though she's on pace to lose the caucuses there) and won big in Rhode Island, but it's clear from all the coverage that's all she needed to get right back in this race. So how did she pull it off? Well some people think it was the negative ads about how Obama can't answer calls at 3 AM, but I'd like to think not since those ads really looked like something the Republicans could have put out.
I hope Hillary Clinton learns that it's not wise to try and make the general election about national security, because while she thinks it may help her win against Obama, it won't against McCain. The Democrats shouldn't want an election on national security for the same reason Liberals in Canada don't want an election on crime, it's just an issue that the public as a whole tends to be less rational and more emotional about (even more so in the U.S. than in Canada) and in turn that favours Conservatives on those issues.
But Hillary's 3 AM ads play into the notion that national security is what this election is about, she even says "John McCain is going to make this election about national security", why in the world should the Democrats let him? Shouldn't they do everything they can to focus on the other issues plaguing America at home and abroad? Because everything else aside from national security (and maybe crime) are the Democrat's strong suit. I hope Hillary changes tack because it's not worth winning the nomination if you've boxed yourself in for the general but running on an issue you won't win against McCain on.
Though to get back to answering the question of why she dominated Ohio, I think the extreme downplaying of expecations combined with the gift wrapped NAFTA leak about Obama played a big role. Liberals here in Canada are right to continue asking Harper questions about the leak because it had an undeniable impact and the source may yet lie in Harper's entourage. Obama was dead even or leading in Ohio and Texas until that story broke that Obama wouldn't really do much to re-negotiate NAFTA as it played right into Hillary's desired narrative that Obama isn't as genuine as he claims. So with that gift Hillary attacked Obama's biggest strength (which given the enormity of the revelation was the smart thing for her to do) and pulled out a big win as a result. Truthfully I don't think either Obama or Hillary would do much to re-negotiate NAFTA (it would probably be similar to the few concessions Chretien obtained when he came into office and I don't think many remember what those were, but he did put up a fuss after he became PM about not ratifying until concessions were made) but now only Hillary can credibly claim she would.
So where do things go from here? I'll make one prediction now: This will go to the convention and it will not be pretty. Why? Because Obama has an almost unssailable lead in pledged delegates, yet Hillary just won some big states that have earned her the right to stay in until Pennsylvania votes on April 22nd and she'll probably win there too, so she will maintain enough momentum to stay in and will have more tail end victories in the big states to claim people are having buyer's remorse over Obama and that will justify her remaining. So the superdelegates will have the last say.
As well, there remains the unresolved issue of Michigan and Florida's delegates. It is quite plausible that Obama's pledged delegate lead will not exceed what Hillary would have gotten if Michigan and Florida counted. This would allow to Hillary to say that she would really be ahead if voters in those two states weren't disenfranchised and she'll use that argument to woo superdelegates. So foreseeing this in sight Obama and Hillary may yet agree to a do over in those states, but that also benefits Hillary because she will win those races comfortably (running as the one who stood up for their votes all along) and this time there would be no dispute over their status and Obama would have to accept them. So Hillary could still win this race yet, I'm not placing any bets yet.
Obama should win the next primary in Mississipi next Tuesday so that should help him a bit, but the calendar ahead points to enough victories on both sides that this thing won't end without a big fight unless something dramatic happens that leads one of the campaigns to self-destruct between Missisippi and Pennsylvania (as we go over a month with no primaries scheduled in the interim). Unfortunately, McCain will be laughing all the way, but I see no other way of how this could end, I just hope Democrats and all progressives can all come together behind their nominee when it finally does because America and the world cannot afford another 4 years of more of the same failed Republican policies.
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