She’s not even close to finished: Hillary “Rocky” Clinton pulled off a staggering win in Pennsylvania last Tuesday. The next few months look inauspicious for the Democrats. The magic of Barack Obama is gone. His messianic allure – the air of being “above politics” – has faded after a string of novice missteps. Obama has decimated his chance for victory in the primary and destroyed any possibility of a Democrat in the White House. Clinton’s win only confirms it.
A month ago, Obama was at the apogee of his success, riding a wave of positive press and endorsements from party elites, academics and activists. In the speeches that followed, he appeared turgidly over-confident. Obama apparently thought his media shield was impervious.
The pride came before the fall. He fudged his response to the Wright controversy by calling the average American a racist and slipped on the same slick when he derided average Pennsylvanians for “clinging” to their guns and religion. Instead of disavowing his ties to a radical who bombed the Pentagon, Obama decided to compare William Ayers’s self-proclaimed political terrorism to Senator Tom Coburn’s trivial campaign rhetoric. The repercussions of his Pennsylvania loss will be incalculable. However, if you put the numbers together, a nine-point defeat in a key state to a woman hated by 50 percent of the country cannot bode well. Obama’s votes came from his safe voting blocs: a solid black and elite base. Meanwhile, his loudly-touted youth voters just didn’t show up. Clinton carried seniors, women, the working class and a strong portion of white men. This is a trend across all the big, blue states. Obama’s base isn’t growing—it might even be shrinking. So far, he has carried small states, but none with a major Electoral College payout. On the flip side, Clinton has won all the key states, but that really won’t matter if she can’t carry some smaller states to secure victory. Thus, Pennsylvania is a bellwether. In the general election, John McCain will pull in independents and be competitive in all the big blue states, like Pennsylvania. What happens if Obama is the nominee? He will get creamed, at least as it stands now. Clinton’s voters will no doubt go to McCain. What if Clinton gets the nod? She will win some and lose some of the big states, depending on how many Independents go for McCain, but she won’t stand a chance in the smaller, moderate states.
Of course, there’s no denying the effect of Rush Limbaugh’s brilliant “Operation: Chaos” strategy on her margin of victory. Most of the 300,000 Republicans who switched parties in Pennsylvania went for Clinton, as did the undecided voters. She’s probably still the weaker candidate, but Obama is far from inerrant—he’s merely a political tyro out of a radical machine that turns voters off by the millions. No doubt, Clinton’s victory nonplussed the super-delegates counting on Obama to “close the deal.” At this point, Obama can’t look as good as he used to, and Clinton still looks just as bad.
What a wonderful, unenviable quandary. The plus side for Obama is that he racked up the delegate-heavy areas of Pennsylvania, watering down Clinton’s win. Clinton only won 10 more delegates because of the Democrats’ convoluted, self-defeating primary process. Nevertheless, with about six weeks to go, it is mathematically impossible for either candidate to snag the nomination before the convention. If Obama keeps fumbling, she could decrease his leads in upcoming states. It looks like the Democratic convention this summer will be an absolute disaster (Thanks, Rush!).
One thing unnoted in most press accounts is that Clinton now has the popular vote. Yes, counting Florida and Michigan, Clinton is the more popular candidate after last Tuesday’s win. Even without those two states, she’s just shy of Obama’s total, but nevertheless in a statistical tie. Obama might have the technical lead in the number of delegates, but the majority of Democrats appear to prefer Clinton by a hair. The super-delegates voting this summer are between the proverbial rock and hard place. Indeed, from where I’m standing, it appears they were already crushed to a pulp last Tuesday. Whomever they choose now is only going to alienate half of their voting block, and at least half of those voters will go to McCain. Unless the media finds some serious problems in McCain’s past to spring an “October surprise,” it looks like the senator is on his way to being president number 44. As much as I dislike McCain, I must admit that I am giddy about the Democratic implosion yielding a Republican victory. It’s really too bad that a real conservative isn’t the nominee—practically anybody the Republicans could have chosen would have it made this November.
Patrick Ross is a fourth-year English and history double-major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.