Last night gave me two consecutive humiliating losses in the prediction game. After being way out to lunch in Alberta, Hillary Clinton blew the lid off of my projections. She managed to win Rhode Island by a far larger margin than I guessed, won Ohio, won Texas (which I said she might do) and may even win the Texas Caucus - with only a third of the results counted, she trails Obama by 4 points, about the same margin she trailed him by when that number of primary votes had been counted.
Hillary Clinton had a very good night last night. In fact, if she pulls off a win in the Texas caucuses, it may well be the best possible night she could have had. That said though, it is still over for her and she will take her surge last night and use it to really painfully drag out the inevitable.
Right now Obama can rightfully point out that, since Tsunami Tuesday, he has won 12 states and Clinton has won 3. Let's look at what's coming up:
Saturday - Wyoming Caucus
Tuesday - Mississippi Primary
Six Tuesday's later - Pennsylvania Primary
Obama has won a plurality of delegates in every single caucus to date. With the exception of Nevada, he has won them all convincingly. Indeed, if you don't count Nevada or Iowa (which was a three-way race), he has won them all by 20 points or more, in many cases much more. Even if Clinton goes into Wyoming and campaigns hard with a huge surge of momentum, Obama will win by at least 10 points. And she isn't likely to focus too much time there.
Obama repeated his feat last night, which we've seen over and over, of winning almost 90% of the Black vote. Mississippi has the largest proportion of Blacks of any state; he will carry it hugely.
So, after next Tuesday, there will be a six week unfettered slog fest in Pennsylvania during which time Obama will be able to tout a record of 14-3, which is pretty good. Clinton may or may not be able to win Pennsylvania. Let's assume she does, the journey thereafter isn't impossible but still is not an easy one for her:
Indiana (Clinton favoured), North Carolina (Obama favoured), West Virginia (Clinton favoured), Kentucky (Clinton favoured), Oregon (Obama favoured), Montana (toss up), South Dakota (toss up)
It is now mathematically impossible (barring one of the candidates dropping out and allowing the other one to sweep the remaining primaries by huge margins) for either candidate to win enough delegates to clinch the nomination without the support of superdelegates. Regardless of what happens, Obama will go into the convention with an edge among pledged delegates. Therefore Clinton can only win by winning a very large majority of superdelegates. The only way she can do that is to a) run the table, beating Obama in states he is expected to win, thus giving superdelegates the view that Obama was a fad that cannot last; b) for Obama to be engulfed in a huge scandal. Neither of these outcomes seems likely to me.
Moving on to the Republican race. Last night, John McCain accrued enough delegates to convince the media to call him the de facto nominee. Mike Huckabee withdrew from the race and George W. Bush is set to endorse McCain at the White House today. I am not sure what McCain's plan is, but if I were advising him, I would send him out on a big campaign tour. The reason why I have said that John McCain will win the general election easily is that he can put states in play that have not been in play for the Republicans since at least 1988. He may not win many, or even any, of these states, but by campaigning there he will force the Democrats to do so as well, leaving the "swing states" unattended and thus in the Republican column.
McCain should go on a straight talk 50-state tour and visit, if even only briefly, each of the 50 states to hammer home the message that he plans to compete across the board. During this tour, he should focus very strongly on Democratic states that he can win or at least put in a good fight:
The swing states that have gone for Democrats in recent years: New Hampshire, Iowa, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. States that have been consistently Democratic but the Republicans do well: Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota. And then some strong Democratic states where McCain can play: Connecticut (where he leads in the polls over both Obama and Clinton!), California, Oregon, Maine, Maryland, etc.
This will scare the living daylights out of Democrats and probably lead to an even bloodier Democratic primary where elders supporting each candidate will loudly try to force the opposite one out of the race so that McCain will not go unanswered in those states they have won and need to win.
Regardless, it should be interesting.