Saturday, March 01, 2008

Nomination Countdown- 3/1/08

This is the week where many Democrats expect to have an invevitable nominee. After winning 11 consecutive contests, the supporters of Barack Obama look ahead to contests on Tuesday in Vermont (where he should win handily) as well as Rhode Island and the delegate rich states of Ohio and Texas.

There is some reason to believe that Hillary Clinton should at least be able to break her losing streak in Rhode Island, where she has a lead, Texas and Ohio are expected to be very close. If Hillary Clinton were to lose both states, even if they were close, it would be hard to see how she would be able to still capture the nomination. There would be much pressure on her to drop out in that instance. However, expectations have been lowered to such an extent based on plummetting national and state polls where a narrow Clinton win in one of the states might leave her with the motivation to keep fighting it out into the Pennsylvania contest in April and beyond.

Some polling out this weekend shows some potential late movement for Clinton in the two key states, perhaps related to the candidates' final scheduled debate appearance, which would be a surprise since most pundits gave it to Obama. In fact, Clinton drew ridicule in some quarters by the way she managed to incorporate a Saturday Night Live dig at the Obama-media relationship into one of her answers.

Otherwise the past week has revolved around a leaked photo of Obama in a turban and other Muslim appearing garments during a 2006 trip to Africa. The Drudge Report claims that it came from someone in the Clinton campaign, while they are officially denying it. It may not be immediately known who is telling the truth over that episode but it would certainly represent some desperation on behalf of the Clinton campaign, which has taken on a lot harsher and more strident tone against Obama since a previous debate performance which was seen as overly concilliatory in parts. On Friday, the Clinton campaign released an ad about children sleeping at 3 am and who parents would want answering the phone at the White House. It could be effective in raising concerns about Obama's readiness to be Commander in Chief, but Obama supporters are denouncing the ad as "fear mongering."

If I had to guess, I would say that Clinton narrowly wins Ohio on Tuesday while Obama narrowly wins Texas. It would be far more surprising though if Clinton won both than if Obama wins both. As long as Clinton manages to keep it close, I do not anticipate any sort of quick withdrawal from the campaign.

It might be worth noting that in this historic Democrat contests, Black History Month has now ended with February which was wildly successful for the Obama campaign and March now brings Women's History Month. The Clinton campaign is certainly hoping to find more than irony there.

On the GOP side, John McCain will of course win all the contests on Tuesday as Mike Huckabee is left begging the New York Times to try to write some sort of scandal story about him. McCain has instead spent much of the past week in a back and forth with Obama, who might now see as the likely Democrat nominee. Such a sense of inevitability might benefit Obama against Clinton, but he is also now under attack on two fronts regarding how prepared he is to be President. McCain and Obama have had some particularly spirited exchanges about Iraq and judgment.

McCain and Republicans are clearly anxious to start focusing on the general election, but they are also in no hurry for the Democrat squabbling to cease. Besides, some of the ads and rhetoric that the Clinton campaign is employing against Obama might be the best free advertising the GOP could hope for.


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