Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stat of the Day

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 341

This nugget of hard news from the Associated Press today is just too good to pass up:


Sixty-three percent of Democrats say Hillary Rodham Clinton is good looking compared with 17 percent of Republicans, with Democratic women slightly likelier to say so than men. Barack Obama is viewed as good looking by 58 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of Republicans. John McCain is seen as good looking by about a quarter of those from both parties, according to an AP-Yahoo News survey released Feb. 1.

Which gives new meaning to the phrase, "political beauty contest."

Bloodbath on the Chesapeake

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 341

[Updated to include delegate projections from the New York Times]

The story this morning, following yesterday's balloting in D.C., Maryland and Virginia is three more primaries, three more big wins for Barack Obama. Obama obliterated Hillary Clinton yesterday, and for that matter, John McCain as well. How so? Take a look at the popular vote totals in each contest:

District of Columbia
Clinton: 27,326
McCain: 3,929 (and no, that number is not a typo)
Obama: 85,534

That's Obama beating Clinton and McCain combined by 54,279 votes.

Clinton: 273,828
McCain: 157,906
Obama: 439,979

Again, Obama bests the combined Clinton and McCain totals, this time by 8,245 votes.

Clinton: 345,018
McCain: 242,578
Obama: 619,036

Once more, combined totals for Clinton and McCain come up 31,440 short of the number of votes cast for Barack Obama alone.

Overall, Barack Obama tallied 93, 964 more votes yesterday than his principal Democratic rival and the GOP's presumptive nominee combined.

This is an astonishing result, the like of which we have never seen before. The way this plays out in terms of delegates is, as ever, subject to some conjecture. The Associated Press now estimates that Obama leads Clinton by a total of 1,223 to 1,198, while RealClear Politics puts Obama on top with 1,260 delegates to Clinton's 1,221, with the New York Times projecting 1,095 delegates for Obama to Clinton's 982 (pledged delegates only). But it now appears that Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton in total delegates (super delegates included) for the first time since since the Iowa Caucuses back on January 3.

The implications for the campaign during the remainder of February are clear. Hillary Clinton is down, but by no means out. Having gone zero for seven in the just the last four days, Hillary Clinton needs a game changer, and there are two obvious places to go: go negative on Barack Obama, and retool her message to focus on populist economic themes, ala John Edwards. While these are the obvious choices, there's no guarantee they will be effective, or by any means easy to do. But the question is, what other choices does Clinton have left? Focusing on winning big states alone hasn't worked, and counting on Texas and Ohio to save her on March 4 while she faces the prospect of continuing routs everywhere else until then would be delusional. Clinton has replaced her campaign manager, her deputy campaign manager and parts of her internet team, but absent changes in how Clinton herself chooses to react to her slide since getting trounced in South Carolina, this will amount little more than the proverbial rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

John McCain, while reaping huge delegate totals in every contest thanks to the GOP's winner-take-all rules, continues to struggle to win over the conservative and evangelical base of his party. The hope expressed by the Republican establishment and media last week that their base would stop worrying and learn to love McCain once it became clear that he was going to be the nominee is turning out to look increasingly forlorn. John McCain has a serious problem, and it goes far deeper than the continuing campaign of Mike Huckabee. The things that make McCain an appealing candidate to moderate and independent voters are the very things that inspire loathing for McCain in the GOP base, and reconciling those groups behind his candidacy will take more skill than McCain or anyone in the GOP has shown up to this point. And the Republican hope that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and do their unifying for them is looking increasingly shaky as well.

For Barack Obama, the main benefit of this string of victories is threefold. First, it will keep his buzz building, which will pay particular dividends in fundraising, as money follows the winner. Second,it blunts Clinton's claims to greater electability, as that argument only makes sense if you're winning, and Clinton isn't. And finally, it is beginning to cause the electorate at large to reevaluate the race, in effect creating space for voters to ask themselves, "OK, so why not Obama?" And that is the new territory that Barack Obama has entered this morning: in the public mind, he has for the first time become a genuinely viable choice for president.

None of which is to say that anything is set in stone with months still to go before the summer's party conventions. But for Hillary Clinton and John McCain, this is a red sky morning.

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