Hillary Clinton has finally broken her losing streak and sent a clear message to Obama: I’m not getting out. For the Illinois senator, the meaning of the primaries is clear — he has to get tough. Hillary can still win this nomination.
The proportional representation system of allocating delegates chosen by primaries and caucuses mutes the impact of the popular vote. About 2,800 delegates will have been elected and 600 remain to be chosen. Obama entered the night with a lead of 170 votes among delegates selected by the voters. By the time the Texas caucuses are fully counted, he may have maintained or even expanded that lead despite Hillary’s victory in at least one and possibly more of the states. Among the remaining 600 delegates to be chosen, Obama should be able to add to his lead.
But there remain 800 superdelegates each entitled to a full vote. No matter if Obama leads among elected delegates, they can still deliver the nomination to Hillary. Do they dare? If Mrs. Clinton is able to score a series of popular vote victories in these late primaries, she could lay the basis for an appeal to the superdelegates to disregard the results of January and February and look instead at her success in the later contests.
The battle of Hillary is over. The battle of Obama has begun. By losing in almost a dozen consecutive primaries and caucuses, Hillary had shifted the spotlight to Obama in the late days of the Texas and Ohio campaigns. The question of his readiness and experience loomed ever larger in the minds of the media and of voters. Her Red Phone ad, citing her supposedly superior readiness to be commander in chief, evidently cut deeply among the electorate.
It’s time that Obama counters her strategy by hitting back.
His lofty politics of hope will avail him little in the aggressive rough and tumble world of modern politics. He’s got to spell out the special interest connections that stigmatize Hillary as the tool of the lobbyists. He must underscore the need for her to release her tax returns for 2007 and 2006 to show the source of her newfound wealth.
He’s got to probe her relationship with Norman Hsu and Bill’s financial ties to the emir of Dubai. He has to underscore how Hillary’s so-called experience, particularly in military affairs is largely derivative of her husband’s. He’s got to learn to trade blows with the Clintons, the best counter-punchers in the business.
Looming above the primaries is the specter of the unseated delegations from Michigan — chosen in a primary with only Hillary’s name on the ballot — and Florida. Superdelegates might pay their dues to Hillary by voting to seat the rump delegations while covering themselves with votes for Obama on the first ballot. She might get enough support on the credentials issue to seat the two states and win the nomination.
Obama needs to stop her gathering momentum by shedding his ingénue status and fighting hard for the nomination his previous victories have earned him.
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