Wednesday, February 20, 2008

After Hawaii & Wisconsin

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 334

With last night's victories in Wisconsin and Hawaii, Barack Obama has now racked up 10 straight wins over Hillary Clinton since February 5.

The results of yesterday's voting continued and solidified the trend that first came into focus in last week's contests in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia: Barack Obama is winning over large groups of core Democratic voters, many of whom were thought to be safely in Clinton's corner only a fortnight ago. As I posted yesterday, Wisconsin could hardly have been better suited to serve as the launching pad for Hillary Clinton's recovery against Obama's recent string of successes, and yet she lost decisively among many groups she had previously been able to win over. Workers making less than $50,000 per year, those without college degrees, who also form a major block of the electorate in Ohio, went for Obama, as did crossover independent and Republican voters. Even women voters, previously a bulwark of support for Clinton, split nearly evenly between her and Obama.

This is just about as bad as things can be for Hillary Clinton. Her message isn't resonating; her public image isn't improving; her strategies have failed; her staff shakeup hasn't made any difference. And now, with her back to the wall, Hillary Clinton must - simply, absolutely must - score not just wins, but double-digit wins, in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas to get back in to this race. Between now and late April, Hillary Clinton cannot afford a single mistake, misstep, off-note, or stumble. And given the misfiring campaign Clinton has been running so far this year, that is a very, very serious challenge for her.

The immediate focus of the campaign now shifts to tomorrow's debate in Texas, which, if last night's speech by Hillary Clinton provides any indication, will be a thoroughly nasty exercise in trying to raise Obama's negatives. Obama will need to keep his head and stay on message, which, given his uneven performances in past debates, could be a problem for him. On the other hand, if Obama holds up well under Clinton's attacks, he'll have fresh ammunition against charges that he isn't ready to stand up against the Republican attack machine. It should prove an interesting evening, either way.

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