February 20, 2008

Hillary On Her Last Legs

Hillary Clinton took an unexpected beating in Wisconsin, losing the state by a whopping seventeen points after a hard but late blitz by her campaign in the state. While it only resulted in an eleven-delegate gain by Obama, the impact of the loss goes far beyond delegate counts. She lost a state whose demographics should have favored her -- and which look very familiar to those of Ohio:

Sen. Barack Obama won the Wisconsin Democratic primary decisively last night, extending his winning streak to nine consecutive contests and dealing another significant blow to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose imperiled presidential candidacy now hangs on the outcome of showdowns in Ohio and Texas in two weeks.

After a week of sparring that included the first negative ads of the campaign, Obama emerged victorious in a critical general-election battleground state. For the second week in a row, the senator from Illinois made inroads into the coalition that Clinton has counted on to carry her to the nomination -- women and white working-class voters -- while rolling up big margins among white men. ...

Clinton was in Ohio, the other big March 4 state, appearing at a rally in Youngstown, where she did not acknowledge the Wisconsin results and another setback that pushed her further from the nomination that at one time seemed hers almost for the asking. She focused instead on the road ahead and the choices she said confront Democratic voters.

She told the audience: "One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world. . . . One of us has a plan to provide health care for every single American -- no one left out. . . . One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past. And one of us is ready to do it again."

After a series of setbacks, Hillary changed the management of her team and the direction of her campaign. She started trying to out-populist Barack Obama, and she went on the attack. In the last couple of days, they tried to paint Obama as a phony and an empty suit. Instead of focusing on Texas and Ohio, the new team changed direction and pressed hard in Wisconsin, where she had remained within the margin of error in most polling.

All of these changes had a big impact on the race. It turned it from a close call to an unmitigated rout. She lost both men and women, she lost every age demographic except seniors, and every income bracket except $15-30K, which she won by a point. In every "important issue" category, she lost by double digits except health care, which she lost by three points.

Wisconsin resembles Ohio in key ways. It has an industrial base hit by globalization pressures, and its people are primarily working class. The education levels tend to be lower, which has been where Hillary has performed best. Except around Milwaukee, Wisconsin is actually much less racially diverse than Ohio. Yet she couldn't even make it a contest.

Neither candidate can win the nomination through the primaries, but Hillary will not convince anyone to cast a superdelegate vote for her if she can't win a lot more states. Right now, it appears that the more she tries to press, the worse she performs. Negative attacks and ridiculous charges of plagiarism only dug the hole deeper.

We are just about to the end of the Restoration. If Hillary winds up losing Ohio, she has almost no hope of winning Pennsylvania in April, even if she manages to win Texas. She has to pull a rabbit out of her hat in the next two weeks, starting with the debate tomorrow night, and hope Obama melts down in the meantime. Otherwise, the superdelegate firewall will become her Maginot Line. She will be left with two choices: quit or face the humiliation of seeing her superdelegates abandon her at the first possible moment of the convention.


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