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January 23, 2008

Could Saturday Be The End Of The Line For Obama?

David Broder calls South Carolina a must-win for Barack Obama, perhaps the 3,471st time a pundit has designated a state as such for a political candidate this year -- and we're only at January 23rd. Broder argues that after supposedly underperforming in New Hampshire and Nevada, Obama has to win the Palmetto State to maintain credibility. He has it exactly backward:

South Carolina has become a must-win state for Barack Obama.

Whatever the outcome of Saturday's Democratic presidential primary here, the Illinois senator has the money and the organization to compete in the nearly two dozen states voting on Feb. 5.

But as his first and only victory, in Iowa on Jan. 3, slips further into history, his strategists concede that Obama badly needs to demonstrate broad enough support to slow Hillary Clinton's progress toward the nomination.

Having trailed her in popular votes in both New Hampshire and Nevada, where he was favored, Obama finds himself more in need of help than he perhaps expected from the voters here.

I don't doubt for a moment that a loss in South Carolina would effectively end Obama's chances, but then again, Obama didn't have much of a chance anyway. Structurally, the Democratic Party has been engineered to fight off any opponents of Hillary Clinton. The Clintons practically built the DNC, they control the superdelegates, and they garner most of the media attention. Even the racial split that erupted in this race eventually benefits the Clintons.

The problem for credibility doesn't belong to Obama. Who is Barack Obama, anyway? He's a half-single-term Senator with no executive experience and almost no legislative record. The fact that he has come this close to winning a nomination from one of the two major parties with this paltry record speaks volumes about the talent level in their pool. In any other cycle, he wouldn't have any credibility at all.

Hillary Clinton is the one worried about credibility. She has had to face down Obama's challenge seriously as he gained traction against her, despite his nonexistent resume. What does that say about her credibility? That's why she went after Obama in the last debate so hard -- because she had to. If a lightweight like Obama -- and for now, that's exactly what he is -- can become such a threat to her nomination, it demonstrates how difficult it will be when she has to face off against a candidate with real experience and better positioning.

Hillary can't afford to have Obama win any more states. It makes her look weak against some pretty thin competition, and reminds everyone of her thin resume as well.


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