Friday, February 15, 2008

Make No Mistake, It Will Not Be Easy

This will not be easy,” he advised, “make no mistake about what we're up against.”- Barack Obama, victory speech, Madison, WI, 10 February 2008.

Senator Obama, to his credit, knows that though he entertains front-runner status nationally and leads Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates, he still faces a formidable, albeit weakened opponent in his own party. Though he is leading overall based on capturing a majority of states, basking in the glow of a media honeymoon, and riding a strong surge of momentum due in no small part to having won the last eight primary/caucuses over Senator Clinton, the race is far from decided.

He entertains a small lead over Senator Clinton in Wisconsin, and faces a stronger than expected fight for his home state of Hawaii on Sunday. Obama may well win both states, increase his delegate count and lose the 4 March primaries of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Rhode Island also votes on that day, and while the most recent polling data favors Clinton by a narrow margin, maverick former Republican senator, now independent Lincoln Chafee has endorsed Obama in his state's primary.

As MSNBC commentator, Chuck Todd pointed out after the Chesapeake Primaries, Clinton would have to win every state in contention on 4 March by 60% of each state's primary to re-capture a substantial delegate lead over Obama. No candidate, Obama or Clinton, has come close to capturing that sort of support in any state and as the race has tightened, the tide has turned against Senator Clinton, and the momentum has swung dramatically towards Obama, it is unlikely to think Senator Clinton could win by that much. Even winning Pennsylvania, Ohio, AND Texas, thanks to proportional allocation of pledged delegates might not be enough to overcome Obama's lead or pull her into anything more than a virtual tie for the nomination. It will take a resounding resurgence in her campaign to give Clinton the right to stay on the ballot in November.

Despite having narrowly captured New Mexico, with the final counting of provisional ballots, Clinton won a roughly equal share of delegates with Obama, rendering her win significant only that it does not add to Obama's lead. Furthermore, that victory emphasizes Senator Clinton's belief that Latino voters will support her over him by decisive margins. The assertion is that there exists some sort of deep-seeded animosity between the country's two largest minorities, and that Latino candidates would not support a Black candidate. One wonders if the reverse would be true as well. Both myths are refuted by Los Angeles Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez in his column entitled "Clinton's Latino Spin".

Assuming conventional wisdom holds true and Obama wins both Wisconsin and Hawaii on Sunday, the deciding factor may come down to an event which has largely been overlooked in the media. In twelve days from now, on Tuesday, 26 March, MSNBC is holding a debate between Obama and Clinton at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. Tim Russert and Brian Williams of NBC news both will moderate. This event will be the likely final appearance between the two of them in person before the nomination is decided. It will be the last chance for both candidates to plead their case to four states and the country as to which of them is best suited to defeat John McCain in November, and end eight horrible years of GOP control of the Executive branch. One crucial slip up by either candidate in the debate might very well spell doom for either candidate and decide the party's nomination.

I know who I think can best win, but ultimately the will of the people will decide who will represent us in November. I think I speak for all of us when I note that I am heartsick of losing elections to the Republicans. Whomever we select will have a formidable challenge ahead of them. May the best person win. May God help us if we are wrong.

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