February 13, 2008

The Hill Is Alive In The State Of Wisconsin

Last week, the Hillary Clinton campaign argued that the month of February would belong to Barack Obama, and that they would focus on Texas and Ohio. After making a change in leadership in the campaign and watching the lopsided delegate split in Virginia and Maryland, Team Hillary has changed direction. Now they will fight for delegates in Wisconsin instead of ceding the state to Obama:

Sen. Barack Obama has been lavishing attention on the historically independent voters of Wisconsin. Rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is moving belatedly to make a contest of next Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary.

The senator from neighboring Illinois has spent more time in the state than the former first lady. Obama drew 4,000 people at a rally last October and beat Clinton back to Wisconsin this year.

But Clinton hasn't conceded the 74 delegates at stake even though she has already begun campaigning for the larger delegate prizes offered in Texas and Ohio on March 4. Her advisers say the New York senator may not win Wisconsin but can't afford another of the lopsided defeats she suffered in three mid-Atlantic primaries Tuesday.

It looks like someone finally smelled the coffee in the Clinton campaign, or perhaps caught the whiff of catastrophe. The delegate run that Obama has achieved in winning eight straight contests have put Hillary on the edge of oblivion, and she can't afford any more 2-1 losses in significant states. Wisconsin has 92 delegates, and if she suffers the same kind of wipeout that she took in the Potomac region last night, she could give up another 30 delegates to Obama's already impressive lead.

The schedule has already changed. Hillary will now spend three full days in Wisconsin, trying to inspire people to vote for her and counter Obama's efforts in the state. She had originally appeared ready to shuttle between Texas and Ohio for the next three weeks, but those plans have now been mooted. She's also stepping up her advertising budget in Wisconsin to counter the more flush Obama campaign's efforts.

Can she make a stand in Wisconsin? A recent poll puts Obama up by eleven. None of the nationals have polled there recently; in December, Hillary was up significantly, but her fortunes have fallen of late. A big effort there may reverse the trend and make the state at least a split for her, denting Obama's momentum in delegate collection.

Hillary supporters have to ask themselves what happened. According to the New York Observer, they simply didn't plan on having to compete after Super Tuesday. In what has to be one of the more obvious cases of political hubris, they never considered Barack Obama a real threat. With that kind of arrogant blindness, the recent changes in leadership make a lot more sense -- and the sudden strategic shift in Wisconsin might portend some tough campaigning for Obama ahead.


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