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February 4, 2008

Is Obama Heading For A Super Tuesday Triumph?

According to Reuters, the night might belong to Barack Obama tomorrow after polls in several states now show him pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton. All Democratic contests award delegates on a proportional basis, making a decisive victory very unlikely, but a strong showing could shift momentum so significantly that Hillary may not be able to recover:

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama opened narrow leads on Hillary Clinton in California and Missouri one day before crucial "Super Tuesday" nominating contests in 24 states, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Monday. ...

Obama and Clinton were deadlocked in New Jersey, and Obama enjoyed a double-digit advantage over Clinton in Georgia in two other Democratic contests on the biggest single day of voting ever in a U.S. presidential nominating campaign.

Obama, an Illinois senator, and Clinton, a New York senator, have waged a bitter duel for the Democratic presidential nomination, competing for votes from coast to coast after splitting the first four significant contests.

"The momentum is with Obama," said pollster John Zogby. "If this trend continues it could be a very big night for him."

Again, this is Zogby, not the most reliable of pollsters. The numbers look interesting and optimistic, but not necessarily compelling. Hillary does well enough in most of these states where she could be in a dead heat rather than behind, and as we saw in New Hampshire, the polls can get it wrong.

If Zogby has this right, though, Obama could jump out to a significant delegate lead by Wednesday. That puts Hillary in catch-up mode, and that means she'll have to go back into attack mode -- which is what got her in trouble over the last few months. CapQ readers won't forget that her lashing out at Obama in November revealed a strange streak in Hillary and her team, which criticized Obama on the basis of grade-school essays. Until then, Obama hadn't even seriously challenged Hillary in any state.

If she takes a hit in tomorrow's primaries, Hillary will need the superdelegates more than ever to help her win the nomination. If she slides badly, though, she may find the superdelegates more interested in supporting the candidate with momentum. They exist to avoid brokered conventions by coalescing behind the most electable and strongest candidate in the race. Hillary had assumed that described her, an assumption the superdelegates themselves may be questioning by now.


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