Will Tomorrow Decide Much Of Anything?

We have, I believe, been operating under a false assumption; that the Texas and Ohio primaries will ultimately decide who will be the Democratic nominee.  At the very least, we’ve optimistically hoped that should Hillary Clinton not come down with decisive victories in both states, that she would gracefully admit defeat and step down for the good of the party.

Now, on the eve of what should be Judgement Day for the Democratic primaries, the path ahead is more convoluted than ever before.

Behind all of this is a simple doubt; will Hillary actually ever step down?

There are arguments that could be made on both sides of this question and both are valid.  Unfortunately, we also know that the Clinton campaign in general has a tendency to look at things through a different lens.  This lens distorted the significance of post February 5th states, and the vital urgency of being competitive in caucus states.  It is also a lens that covers up the folly of hunting Super Delegates in excess and attempting to seat Florida and Michigan without do-over primaries, as well as preventing the viewer from prognosticating the potential backlash for negative campaigning.

This lens also eradicates hindsight apparently, as evidenced by the lesson from the “Xerox” line going unlearned as evidenced by referencing the SNL skit in the next successive debate.

In general, the Clinton campaign seems to view victory and how to get there differently than everyone else paying attention.  This has led to more than a few political obituaries and premature post-mortems.  What, everyone seems to be asking, went wrong with the Clinton campaign?

Everyone has their own speculative guesses to the answer, and for the most part everyone has a piece of the puzzle right.  But for all intents and purposes, this morbid guessing game is not what should be the focus right now.

What we know is that we don’t know how the Clinton campaign views this election, and we don’t know fully well what they determine to be defeat.  We don’t know when they will get out of the race if they indeed do fail to pull out the requisite come from behind miracle win and that could have a catastrophic effect on the outcome in November.

It is too cozy of an assumption that the Democrat that makes it to the General Election will win the White House.  Back in 2004 Bush was so hated and the party so unified that most of us believed that stopping Bush after his first term seemed like a sure thing.  Now, we will be coming into this General Election after almost eight full years of this disastrous administration, and it would seem as though Americans would be willing to vote for anyone that doesn’t have an R following his or her name.

But let’s not be so hasty; Republicans are taking a hit for their policies and their scandals lately, but the failures of George W. Bush will not necessarily be automatically transposed onto his would-be successor, John McCain.  Indeed, the Republicans could not have chosen a better choice to go into the General Election given the fact that John McCain has more crossover support than any of his rivals did.  On top of this, despite the facts to the contrary he has successfully built up a narrative of “Straight Talk”.

His service in the military gives him strong National Security bona fides, and his time as a POW makes that service virtually unassailable.

He’s an opponent to be wary of and to think there is nothing that Democrats couldn’t do to lose this election is simply wrongheaded and naive.

The first thing that they could do to shoot themselves in the foot is to have a prolonged fight for the nomination.  Now, this is not necessarily true, but it will be given the direction of the tone between Clinton and Obama.  I understand that an extended fight that leads to a brokered convention could actually be good for the Democratic nominee, providing loads of free air time and attention.  But this is not the case if the fight gets too dirty and the eventual nominee enters the General Election tired, bloodied up, and covered in mud.

Which brings us back to tomorrow, the day after, and whether or not we will know more clearly who the nominee will be.  I don’t think anything will be decided–at least nothing that hasn’t already been decided.

Mathematically, we already know who should by most counts be the nominee.  Divorcing one’s self from personal feelings in this campaign, the eleven wins that Obama scored after Super Tuesday were not merely symbolic victories that built momentum; they allowed him to construct a respectable lead in pledged delegates.  This results in the fact that Hillary must perform unbelievably well in remaining states while at the same time pushing Obama closer to the magic number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Though not impossible, it is highly improbable for Clinton to win.  This is why we say that had any other candidate been in Clinton’s position, calls for her retirement from the race would have come long ago.

But this is Clinton, and we play the cards we’re dealt.

The fact is, I don’t think anything short of convincing defeats in both Texas and Ohio would push Clinton out of the race at this game.  Some say she is looking for an excuse to make a graceful exit, I, on the other hand, entertain the idea that she is looking for any excuse to stay in the race.

Which means, tomorrow is not likely to decide a thing.

What I have seen in Texas and Ohio is something I have seen everywhere throughout this season; Obama starts with a serious double digit deficit in the state, campaigns hard, and races against the clock to beat Hillary.  In Iowa and South Carolina he beat the clock.  In Nevad and New Hampshire, he didn’t.

While polling is all over the place in both states, in general it is looking as though Obama has sunk the buzzer beater in Texas while in Ohio he has drawn within striking distance but still failed to make up enough ground to overtake Hillary.  Ultimately this will result in Obama further expanding his delegate lead over Clinton, but the Clinton campaign will spin Texas in her favor while touting the victory in Ohio to no end and there one will find the excuse for Clinton to stay in this race.

But I don’t think Clinton will receive any measurable momentum out of such an outcome.  Mathematically the nomination will be even further out of her reach and the Clinton campaign will have to work even harder not only to validate her continued existence in the race but also to find a clear path to the nomination.

That path will be paved with negativity–the kind of negativity that the Republicans will feast upon and amplify as they revel in watching their potential opponents tear each other to shreds.

Thus, you’re going to see Obama gradually pull further away from Clinton while at the same time close in on that magic 2025 mark.  What I think you’re going to see (assuming all of this plays out as I’m predicting and Hillary doesn’t surprise the hell out of me by dropping out later this week) is that the Super Delegates are going to be watching the contest very closely, collecting the whole time around Obama and trying to gently nudge Clinton out of the way before she does too much chances to Obama’s November aspirations.

If it gets too far and Obama is in range, you’re going to see a surge of Super Delegate support to push him over the mark just to keep her from wrecking the whole shebang.

Will Obama be the nominee?  At this point it’s hard not to say yes; the only questions being how bloodied up will he be and how much rest time will he get before the General Election?  That is ultimately up to the Clinton campaign, and I don’t think tomorrow is going to make up their minds.

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