06 February 2008

What Comes After Super Tuesday? Wednesday Morning Speculation, Of Course

Everybody agrees: Super Tuesday was a draw for the Democrats. The Washington Post declares "Clinton, Obama Split Super Tuesday Contests." The New York Times: "Clinton and Obama Trade Victories." Los Angeles Times: "With No Losers, the Fight Goes On." The Wall Street Journal: "Obama, Clinton, Split Dems' Super Tuesday." Accordingly, Obama didn't "grab" any major upsets, though I think Connecticut counts as a significant one, and Clinton didn't "blow" any of her expected gimmes. All of which means what, exactly?

As The Carpetbagger Report's Steve Benen wrote yesterday:

I suspect tonight will be similar. Clinton, I cautiously assume, will win most of the Democratic contests. But how the results are perceived will make all the difference — if the headline reads, “Clinton cruises to victory in most Super Tuesday states,” she’ll have momentum going into the next round of contests and solidify her position as the frontrunner. If it reads, “Clinton, Obama split delegates on Super Tuesday,” it’ll be a wash.


I suspect Obama may very well lose [NY, NJ, CA, CT, MA,] but if it’s perceived as one rough day — a rough day in which Obama still wins a lot of delegates from each of the states — it’s easier to bounce back.

I think Benen makes a lot of sense, and he cites Adam Nagourney and Markos Moulitsas on his way to reaching the conclusion that Obama "has to lose just well enough." That is, hang in, keep it close, and continue to position himself as the next great hope. Obama, of course, is running on the platform of change. To this end I believe his campaign wants to continue to generate momentum, chip away at Clinton's top dog status, continue to inspire and exhilarate supporters, thus attracting new ones, and continue to generate preposterous sums of cash. (It's no doubt more complicated than all that, but the point is that a close night for Obama is actually a victory; he was never supposed to come this far against the first family of Democratic politics.)

Now Obama must simply keep doing what he's been doing--it seems to have worked so far--and reap the next handful of primaries where he's positioned to do well. The perceived draw last night, and a number of "Victory" headlines for the Obama camp, even little ones like South Dakota that may trickle in through May and June (eons from now, on the political futures markets), could just put him into the #1 slot as the hype mounts in Denver in anticipation of the August convention.

I'll just repeat that little note, that Obama took Connecticut, albeit the least consequential, in terms of delegates, of the 5 presumed wins Clinton was seeking. Obama's performance also made for dramatic news in Missouri when the AP called the state for Clinton and then reversed the announcement in Obama's favor. That had to feel good.

Contrary to Steve's "rough day" comment, I don't think it looks that way at all for Obama. The Obama camp would have loved a big coup in a state like New Jersey or California, but I think he'll take what he's got and keep working. Clinton, at the same time, is likely chagrined about the 26 delegates she didn't get from Connecticut, as well as the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't turn of events in Missouri. Remember, she's still fighting to keep everything she's got. Obama, for whom nothing is assumed, is fighting for everything he's going to get. Just from the outset, that plays in nicely to him looking hopeful and her looking embattled.