Ten

With Obama taking a jaw dropping 76-24% victory in Hawaii, the February sweep is complete.  Earlier in the evening, Obama picked up eleven delegates over Clinton in his 18 point victory in Wisconsin.  Both victories put the exclamation point on the statement that there is only one road left to the Clinton campaign on its way to the nomination, and woe be to she who chooses to traverse that thorny path.

“Don’t count her out”, has become something of a mantra among the punditry regarding this election cycle.  Indeed, you don’t count a Clinton out, but not for the reasons you would hope for.  Not because in a bottom of the ninth, two outs, two on, she can rally and pull the miracle win off.  No, you don’t count the Clinton camp out more because she’s apt to cudgel the umpire, and while everyone’s out getting a beer during the seventh inning stretch, swap the numbers on the score board.

But one thing is becoming more evident as this contest goes along.  Obama has beat Clinton in the raw nomination contest alone.  Playing the game on the level, there is no path for Clinton to the nomination, she lost that last night.  Really, she lost it the day after Super Tuesday.

That there was no plan for a post Super Tuesday is in retrospect obvious, and in a move that baffled many, the Clinton campaign abstained from the six smaller contests in the days following February fifth.  Obama took those away easily.  By the time the Potomac Primary came along, someone somewhere heard warning bells, and the Clinton campaign actually made a show of it, they campaigned, primarily in Virginia.  That night the Obama campaign made a killing, the lowest margin a victory along the three contests in the high twenties, the highest margin nearly fifty points.

That was the beginning of the end.

In those first six states after Super Tuesday the Clinton campaign had played a game of lowered expectations.  They had pointed to the caucuses and simply shrugged and said that Obama was better at caucuses.  They pointed to the demographics and said that of course they favored Obama.  They did everything they could to make those first six seem like not such a big deal.

It got a little more difficulat with the Potomac Primary.  Here we were talking about more Hillary friendly Demographics, she campaigned there, really make a strong last minute push.  But it was all for naught, and the margins of victory were simply embarrassing.  With no possible spin to put on the heavy losses, the Clinton camp simply ignored them.

And they put up Texas and Ohio as their firewall.

Now, this was nothing new.  Shortly after Super Tuesday the Clinton camp has said that these two states would stop Obama in his tracks in these two states, displaying yet another fatal error in practicing a tactic that had already seen the end of one candidate this primary season; Rudy Giuliani.

With the Potomac Primary in the rearview mirror, something was clear; the Clinton camp couldn’t afford to wait until Texas and Ohio.  The effect of racking up such huge consecutive wins was twofold; building upon his delegate total which put him in the lead and makes it difficult for the Clinton campaign to catch up, while at the same time building that much coveted momentum, that magical “it” that allows the energy from one state to carry over into another.

If the Clinton campaign allowed Obama to walk into Texas unassailed, they were in trouble.  And so the Clinton campaign challenged Obama in Wisconsin.  Challenged and failed.  There is no spin she can put on this loss, there is no way to make this seem like some sort of a winning proposition.  Wisconsin would be the first state since Super Tuesday that both candidates contested hotly, and despite the efforts of the Clinton campaign, it was another blowout.

Indeed, the wide gap was in part BECAUSE of the Clinton campaign.

Last night as I was going through exit polls, I made particular mention of the fact that voters were, by a wide margin, saying that Hillary was the unfair attacker in this contest.  Indeed, that split was 54-34.  In fact, in my opinion that is the single most important stat of the night because it not only allows us to take a look into how Obama won last night, but it allows us to see what kind of a future Hillary Clinton has in store for her.

We now know that there can be no mistake; Obama has real momentum at his back, and look for polling data to start bumping up for him in the next couple of days.  According to exit polls, Obama has made inroads in many of Clinton’s core constituencies while at the same time holding on to his own.  And every time Hillary goes negative, she is the one that gets punished for it.  54% in Wisconsin said she attacked unfairly.

What this means is that there seems to be no avenue for her to proceed.  Campaigning head to head against Obama doesn’t seem to work, she can focus on the issues, but that’s only going to go so far and carries with it the danger of people finding out that there’s actually substance to Obama.  She can’t even go negative, not without expecting a significant backlash.

And with Texas and Ohio two weeks away, time is running out.

The picture has become so bleak for Clinton that it’s actually more feasible for Obama to reach the magic number of delegates (2025) than it is for Clinton just to catch Obama in pledged delegates.  Which leaves us with an assertion that has already been whispered through political circles; the only way Hillary can win this nomination is by tearing this party apart.  There is no way the Democratic party recovers from pledged delegates getting stolen, Super Delegates overriding the voters’ decisions, and Michigan and Florida being seated without fair contests.  There’s no way.

Further, just because negative campaigning doesn’t work for the Clinton campaign, Mark Penn has made it clear that’s the way he wants to go, he wants to get dirtier.  At this point, that would essentially be bloodying up the eventual nominee and then handing him to McCain.

I would grant the Clinton campaign a last chance to turn things around in Texas and Ohio, but it has become pretty clear; a loss in either state and there is only one decent and proper thing for the Clinton camp to do.  Lose with grace.  Leave the party in tact, leave the nominee in tact.  As a unified party in the General Election, Senator McCain doesnt’ have a chance; he can’t even get his own base to like him.

But if the Clintons tear this party asunder out of some ridiculous idea that this nomination and this presidency is hers by right, not only will John McCain beat a bloodied candidate propped up by a fractured party, Hillary Clinton will confirm the worst words spoken about her, that she’s a triangulator, that she’s in it just for herself, that she’ll do anything to win.

There is a unique opportunity for Mrs. Clinton on the horizon to prove herself better than her detractors would have you believe.  At this point, the only question is, will she take it?

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