In today’s Washington Post Eugene Robinson asks a very important question:
Humor me while we conduct a little thought experiment. Imagine that Barack Obama had lost 10 contests in a row. Imagine that he now trailed Hillary Clinton substantially in the number of Democratic primaries and caucuses won, in total votes cast, in pledged convention delegates, in the overall delegate count, in fundraising and in the ineffable attribute called mojo. Imagine that Obama was struggling, at this late hour, to come up with the right message. What would the conventional wisdom say?
That it was over, of course. That Obama was toast. That staking everything on the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas was a starry-eyed hope, not a plan, and that it was time to smell the coffee.
That seems to be the inescapable conclusion today. The post-Wisconsin delegate count and the remaining primary schedule are both decidedly in Obama’s favor. As I noted yesterday here and here, the polls in Hillary’s firewall states of Texas and Ohio are trending toward Obama. And, after that, there isn’t another big state primary until April 22nd. Finally, after watching the end of Clinton’s closing statement at the debate last night, one can’t help but wonder that she realizes that she isn’t going to win:
Brad at The Crossed Pond has made the bold prediction that Hillary will withdraw after the Texas and Ohio primaries:
By far the most likely scenario for her?
She loses Texas. Ohio is so close as to be a non-factor in terms of momentum. Even Rhode Island might be a tie. The numbers might give-or-take five points, a tie vs. a close Obama win vs. a close Hillary win, whatever, but the point is the story out of March 4th is “How can Hillary possibly win the nomination?” Unless she wins all the March 4th states by at least 10+, this is the case. And at this point, is there anybody willing to put some money up against me that that doesn’t happen?
At that point, she has to spend the next month facing that question, in a more fevered pitch than she has yet (and it’s already pretty fevered). From the first week of March to the final week of April (Pennsylvania), she has to endure what she’s endured since February 5th, but perhaps even worse. She faces the public humiliation of a different superdelegate abandoning her on a daily basis, eventually them doing so en masse. And probably before it even gets to the convention, it gets to the point where she has to face the distinct impression held by everyone in America that the Democratic party has rebuked her, has moved on, but she, alone, is still wrapping her arms around its heels, kicking her feet madly. She has to face all this, and she still almost certainly loses. Or, if by some miracle she wins, she comes out of it with so much disgust dagger-glared at her by not just Republicans who have a meme against her practically bronzed, but America at large, and her party base, that she never gets past it. Probably, she becomes the Democrat, the only one alive, that somehow managed to lose to John McCain in his race to be George W. Bush’s successor.
This is by no means doom-saying on my part. This is the reasonable scenario for an outside chance at a Hillary victory.
And by now, Hillary knows it.
You could see it in her face tonight. She knows it.
Brad is, I think, largely correct. The part I’m not sure of is whether she’ll be willing to admit privately what everyone will know publicly by March 5th — that her campaign is doomed. Being a Clinton, the answer seems to be no, but this might be where the two leading Democrats who have not endorsed a candidate may play a role. At some point, someone is going to need to sit Hillary and Bill down and tell them that, for the good of their party, she needs to concede the race to Barack Obama.
About the only two people neutral enough to do that at this point are Al Gore and John Edwards, both of whom have made a very conscious effort to stay neutral in the race. When the time comes, they will be in a perfect position to tell the Clinton’s that the jig is up. Whether they’ll listen is up to them.