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Dem Race May Come Down To North Carolina

(AP (file))
CBS News political consultant Joe Trippi weighs in on the future of the Democratic race following Hillary Clinton's wins in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island:

The night of Super Tuesday it became clear that if you looked over the horizon Obama was going to be in the driver's seat for 10 or 11 contests, and that the first night Clinton would have a clear shot at victory would be March 4th in Ohio and Texas. It also became apparent that if Obama could target Texas and win it he might be able to break Clinton's back and stop any real chance at a Clinton nomination.

Now that the Clinton campaign has done what it needed to stop Obama's momentum and light up Clinton's, here is a look at what's next over the horizon.

Wyoming: Obama may have a leg up in the Wyoming Caucuses -- but the Clinton Campaign looks like it has learned its lesson in the Texas caucuses. In the end the state is too small to matter much but every delegate does count.

Mississippi: Obama's. Period.

Pennsylvania: Hillary Clinton should win this state by as big a margin as she won Ohio. Gov. Ed Rendell is much more political and has more power over the Democratic party infrastructure than Gov. Strickland of Ohio.

Watch North Carolina

Just as I pointed to Texas as the place that I thought Obama would try to break Clinton's back, North Carolina now becomes the pivotal contest. It's the place where I expect the Clinton Campaign will try to break Obama's back.

Barack Obama has performed terribly among white southern Baptists and the state with the second highest percentage of white southern Baptists is North Carolina. Clinton won Tennessee by 13 points 54 percent to 41 percent and North Carolina is much more like Tennessee demographically than states Obama has done well in like Virginia or South Carolina.

I know it breaks with conventional wisdom that Pennsylvania is the most important state. But realistically if Clinton can't win Pennsylvania she won't be the nominee. The way Clinton puts Obama away is to win Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania and then roll into North Carolina and break his back there.

If she does it -- and it is possible she will have a strong case to the Super Delegates.

John Edwards' Endorsement

The above makes John Edwards' endorsement front and center critical.

For those thinking John Edwards may have blown the window where his endorsement would have the biggest impact in the race... I think it will be a matter of days before both campaigns figure out the North Carolina could be the whole enchilada and that John Edwards is the most coveted endorsement either could have going into that primary with so much at stake.

I also expect Clinton to call for do over Primaries in Michigan and Florida on June 3rd.

So what is Clinton's path to the nomination? Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, get John Edwards' endorsement and win North Carolina -- then take all that momentum and any questions about Obama into do over primaries in Michigan and Florida.

If she can pull this off she can pick up enough superdelegates to win the nomination. And she would compete with John McCain for comeback of the year honors.

Note: Prior to becoming a CBS News consultant, Joe Trippi was a senior adviser to John Edwards' campaign.