Five Reasons Clinton Should Be Worried

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton D-N.Y., acknowledges applause from supporters Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, in New York. AP

This story was written by by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen.


Hillary Clinton survived a Super Tuesday scare. But there are five big reasons the former first lady should be spooked by the current trajectory of the campaign.

Longtime Clinton friends say she recognizes the peril in careening between near-death primary night experiences and small-bore victories.

Although the friends did not have details, they believe she may go ahead with the campaign shake-up she had been planning just before her surprise victory in New Hampshire.

Her team is girding for trench warfare, telling reporters that the nomination will not be decided until at least the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, if then.

Clinton aides told reporters on a conference call today that the Democratic Party's complex delegate allocation rules mean that neither candidate is likely to take a sizable lead in the foreseeable future.

While Clinton's campaign gloated about having the most total delegates for the cycle so far, her staff nevertheless recognizes that Super Tuesday was no triumph. Here's why:

1. She lost the delegate derby. Pure and simple, this is a war to win delegates, one that might not be decided until this summer's Democratic convention.

And when the smoke cleared this morning, it appeared that Barack Obama had ended up with slightly more delegates in the 22 states.

Obama's campaign says the senator finished ahead by 14 delegates.

With results still coming in, Clinton's campaign says the candidates finished within five or six delegates of each other. Either way, Super Tuesday was essentially a draw.

Clinton may still hold the edge overall, but Obama is closing in rapidly.

2. She essentially tied Obama in the popular vote. Each won just over 7.3 million votes, a level of parity that was unthinkable as recently as a few weeks ago.

At the time, national polls showed Clinton with a commanding lead - in some cases, by 10 points or more. That dominance is now gone.

One reason is that polls and primary results reveal that the more voters get to know Obama, the more they seem to like him.

This is especially troubling for Clinton since the schedule slows dramatically now and a full month will pass before the next big-state showdown.

All of this allows candidates ample time to introduce themselves to voters in each state - which plays to Obama's core strengths.

3. She lost more states. Obama carried 14 states, six more than Clinton, and showed appeal in every geographical region.

His win in bellwether Missouri was impressive by nearly every measure, marked by victories among men and women, secular and churchgoing voters, and urban and suburban voters.

4. She lost the January cash war. Money chases momentum, so Obama crushing's 2-to-1 fundraising victory last month is revealing.

He raised more than $31 million; Clinton raised less than $14 million. The implication is hard to ignore: Democratic activists and donors are flocking to Obama at a pace that could have a profound effect on the race going forward.

5. The calendar is her enemy. Now that more than half the states have weighed in, there is a fairly predictable formula for determining who is most likely to win the upcoming contests.

In caucus states, Obama's organizational strength shines: He has won seven of eight. Up next are three more caucus states, Washington, Nebraska and Maine.

Obama also runs tremendously well in states with large African-American populations, another promising sign since next Tuesday's three primaries are in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia - all of which have significant percentages of black voters.

Then comes another caucus state, Hawaii, where Obama is viewed as a native son.

The bottom line is that it figures to be another month before Clinton hits a stetch of states - places like Ohio and Pennsylvania - where she will be strongly favored to win.

So it couldn't be any clearer as to why the supposedly inevitable candidacy is anything but - even when she's supposedly winning.
By Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen

Comments