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March 2008

So… She Could Do It

So, a week ago things looked impossible for Hillary in both Texas and Ohio. Her lead in Texas had completely disappeared, and her lead in Ohio was shrinking rapidly. But in the last week Clinton has battled back. She has made some attacks which appear to have been effective. She has gotten some decent press. In Texas, where Obama had pulled ahead, by several points in the polls, she now has the margin back to 0.2%… a statistically completely insignificant number. It is a dead heat. In Ohio, she blunted Obama’s momentum and has managed to retain her lead. Down to 5.8% for sure, but still a real lead. Some polls even have her lead growing once again. And of course she is way ahead in Rhode Island.

So she might… just might… pull out three wins out of four contests during the voting in the next 24 hours.

But… but… now is the part where spin vs reality thing comes in. Here is one good take on it:

Existential Realities Of The Democratic Race
(Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic)

Q. What does “win” mean?
A. The winner of the Democratic nomination is not the person who wins the most states, not the person who wins the most votes, is not the person who gives the best speeches… it’s the person who wins 2024 (25? — we’re not sure yet) delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Q. Can Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
A. Maybe.

Q. Can you be more specific? Is it mathematically possible for her to win the nomination?
A. Yes.

Q. Is it likely that she will win the nomination?
A. Based on the math alone and a reasonable projection of external events, no.

Q. But you said it’s possible.
A. Yes. But lots of things have to break her way. If, say, voting ends and the press discovers that Obama has a secret second family in Idaho and all his superdelegates abandon him; if, for some reason, she wins 75% of the popular vote in the states after Ohio and Texas and half the remaining superdelegates; if, by slow attrition, she closes the delegate gap to about 70 and picks off two thirds of the remaining superdelegates; if the pledged (Obama) delegates concur with the credentials committee and seat the (Clintonian) Florida and Michigan delegations) — then, yes, it’s possible.

Clinton’s campaign has been signaling that if they “Win” tomorrow (in popular vote) then damn the delegate count, full speed ahead. They won’t care that the actual gap between the two candidates in terms of delegates will at best only be slightly tightened. That Obama will still be significantly ahead. That in order to have a shot at winning she will have to do a lot of damage to her party. “Club the baby seal to death” as has been said. That even if she won, she would emerge as a damaged candidate. And more likely, even after all that she’d still not get it in the end. And the other candidate would emerge damaged. Is she really willing to go to murder/suicide route, giving McCain the best shot at the presidency he could possibly hope for?

More importantly, will anyone take her seriously and buy the spin? If she actually manages to win the popular vote in three states tomorrow, I think they might. Even if the delegate balance barely changes, or even if it goes against her. And then it is on to fight through at least until Pennsylvania… another state where she is ahead in the polls but Obama is closing fast… but that might change if she manages to paint herself as a comeback winner out of Ohio and Texas.

If she loses one of the two, I no longer have a feeling of confidence on what she will do. Will she try to keep going? Maybe. Will she decide enough is enough? Maybe. It will all be about how the spin plays out in the 48 hours or so after the election results come in.

If she loses both Texas and Ohio? At that point not dropping out would just be… well… then she really would be playing the Huckabee role. Could she force the decision all the way to the convention? Yes. She probably could. But in the end she would lose anyway.

On the February 24th Curmudgeon’s Corner I first predicted that Hillary would drop out on March 5th. I think that is less likely than it was then. Not that it SHOULDN’T be what she should do at that point, but she might just be too damn stubborn to do it.

Which will of course mean more fun and excitement for political junkies like me, but you know, ad much fun as taking this to the convention would be, I’m guessing it is kind of obvious I’m quite ready to start obsessing over the general election.

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