Somewhere between Texas and Ohio on Tuesday night the Democratic political groundhog saw his/her shadow and decreed at least another six weeks of campaigning.
After crucial wins on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said she was staying in and Barack Obama, somewhat comforted by his lead in delegates, will have to wait a while before claiming his historic prize. And while he remains in a strong position to eventually claim the nomination, Obama had to contend, once again, with a Lazarus act from Clinton, who in recent weeks has been described as “fading” and “finished.”
Now Obama must deal with questions about whether he can close the deal; and we will get to see him, for the first time since New Hampshire, wrestle with a setback.
Bottom line: The show goes on, and it’s going to get nastier.
With her back against the ropes, Clinton pulled out wins in Texas and Ohio to end Obama’s 12-contest hot streak and keep her campaign alive. She now has her hopes tied to derailing Obama in Pennsylvania on April 22. Over the past week, voters witnessed the classic do-or-die kind of politics we have come to expect from the Clintons. Obama had been cutting into her base in surprising places like Wisconsin and Virginia, and in Ohio, she put a stop to it.
Obama retains a significant advantage in the delegate count , but the six weeks to Pennsylvania will allow the beleaguered Clinton campaign to further test its kitchen-sink strategy against him. They will continue to play tough in the desperate hope that he says or does something stupid or ridiculous in response. This may be her only hope, as the numbers are decidedly against her.
For Obama, Pennsylvania is the chance to get that Big State win that has eluded him so far. Apart from him home state of Illinois and neighboring Missouri, Obama has yet to win in any of the big important battleground states, while Clinton can point to significant wins in states that will be crucial in the general election.
Clinton made exactly that case to her supporters last night, declaring: “If we want a Democratic president, we need a Democratic nominee who can win the battleground states, just like Ohio,” she said. “We’ve won Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, Arkansas, California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Tennessee!”
It is likely that the Clinton strategy will be to try to disqualify Obama, by raising questions about his electability. He, on the other hand, will be forced to respond more directly to the attacks, while making the case that it is exactly the kind of politics that he would like to put behind him.