In a relatively short amount of time, Clinton has gone from being the inevitable winner to being the underdog to being a dead woman walking.
She needs superdelegates to win the nomination, but what is her argument to superdelegates?
Can she promise them she will win a majority of the pledged delegates that voters have chosen in primaries and caucuses? No.
Can she promise them she can take the lead in the popular vote? No.
Can she promise them she can win a majority of the primary and caucus states? No.
But can she get the superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters, slap African-Americans and young voters in the face and shatter the party? Well, yeah, she can try for that Death Star option.
Why would superdelegates want to go along with her? Because she would be a much stronger candidate than Barack Obama in November?
The results so far don’t suggest that. Look at what Obama accomplished Tuesday night with his overwhelming win in the 10th-largest state in the nation, North Carolina, and his narrow loss in Indiana:
Obama spent weeks with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright hanging around his neck, and Obama still did well.
True, he bobbled it at first — Obama threw Wright under the bus only after Wright drove the bus over him — but he managed to get it down to a break-even issue.
Further, Obama opposed lifting a tax on gasoline, and he still won North Carolina. Clinton sold tax relief, Obama sold candor, and Obama won. He said a summer vacation from the gasoline tax was just another Washington-style, promise-them-anything gimmick. And voters bought it.
That is important because tax relief will be one of John McCain’s major issues. If Obama can take that away from him, it strengthens Obama as a candidate in the fall.
Obama is also looking like a guy who, even this late in the primary campaign, can learn from his mistakes. His victory speech in North Carolina on Tuesday night was one of the best speeches he has given in this campaign.
Obama, fighting charges that he is an elitist, didn’t talk about how tough life has been for him and his wife — they are Ivy League-educated millionaires, after all — but about how his parents and his wife’s parents struggled so their kids could have more opportunities and a better life. Which is the American Dream, after all, and something everyone can respond to.
Obama hit the small notes — the “flag draped over” the coffin of his grandfather — as well as the big notes: how the Republicans were going to come at him by attempting “to play on our fears and exploit our differences, to turn us against each other for pure political gain.”
And, contrary to Clinton’s assertion that she has been “fully vetted” and he has not, Obama said: “This is what they will do no matter which one of us is the nominee. The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they’ll run; it’s what kind of campaign we will run.”
“I didn’t get into this race thinking that I could avoid this kind of politics,” he said, “but I am running for president because this is the time to end it.”
Which underscored his major theme: He is the candidate of change. Like things the way they are? Vote for Hillary Clinton. Vote for John McCain. Want to do better? Vote for Barack Obama.
As for Clinton, she went back to the kind of campaigning she loves best and is the most comfortable with: issues, issues and more issues. Speaking Wednesday in Shepherdstown, W.Va., she said: “This election is about solutions, not speeches.”
“High-speed rail!” she said. “Mass transit! Water systems!”
Water systems? Step back! Don’t getrun over by the water-systems voters stampeding her way!
I am not sure even Clinton herself expects to win anymore.
“No matter what happens,” she said, “I will work for the Democratic nominee in November.”
Which doesn’t sound like somebody preparing for victory. That doesn’t make her a loser. Just a realist.