This is what a wave feels like:
One candidate has good crowds; the other has amazing crowds. One candidate has enough supporters to win if the same number of people who voted last time vote this time. But they don't.
The stories start circulating early in the day about polling places running out of ballots, people standing in line, first-time voters filling out the lines.
One campaign sends out the word not to "dance in the end zone." The other tries to bat down the talk of major staff shakeups, premature exits, new people taking over and coffers running on empty.
One campaign puts out the buckets to collect the money as fast as it pours in. The other dials for dollars, hitting up people who have been hit up before to give more, find more, do more.
Waves don't always reach the beach. There was a wave for Gary Hart coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire in 1984 that slowed down in Alabama and ran out of steam by June. There was a wave for John McCain coming out of New Hampshire in 2000 that ran into a wall in South Carolina.
But there is still nothing like riding the wave. Nothing better, nothing worse.
Obama is doing everything right, which is a lot easier to do when you're riding the wave than when you're facing it.
He goes from New Hampshire to New Jersey, to Hillary's back yard, signaling his intention to compete and win even in her strongholds on Super Duper Tuesday, then to New York and Boston to fill up the buckets with money, and then to Chicago to rest, which is critical in a grueling business. His people have put out the word to be gracious — no Carter 1980 dancing on the grave, which led to a protracted battle, a bloody convention and a disappointing general election.
For Hillary, it's harder. Much harder.
When a campaign is going well, everything is a sign of it and everyone involved is a genius. When it's going poorly, everything is a sign of weakness and everyone involved is a fool. In Hillary-land, eyes welling up are viewed as bad strategy and disingenuous emotion, and last year's geniuses are this year's fools, bad strategists who missed the wave instead of smart tacticians who played the hand they were dealt.
Campaigns that lose have to acknowledge failure and make changes, if only to satisfy the media's demands for affirmation of their judgments.
What should Hillary do? She has two choices: She can try to stop the Obama wave, or she can stand up and fight for what she believes in.
She can wake up and say this isn't about me; the days of inevitability are over; the dynasty has fallen; this is what I believe in; these are my bold ideas for America's future; this is how your life will be better if I am president.
Or she can try to destroy Barack Obama — and destroy herself in the process.
Standing up for what she believes in, fighting for what she cares most about, defining this race in terms of our future and not hers, may or may not be enough to stop the wave that is, right now, the Obama campaign. His numbers are going straight up, and hers are going straight down.
There will be many people telling her it isn't fair, that he's gotten less scrutiny than she has, that the media and the pundits and the rest have done her in. It doesn't matter.
At this point, one of the reasons Obama is winning is because he represents a different kind of politics. You don't beat the new politics with the old politics.
Part of the change people want is a change in politics. Hillary Clinton can be part of that change, or its first victim. It's up to her.
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