Too close to call

The most fascinating race for President of the United States in my lifetime could have become a good bit more settled after the Super Tuesday round of primaries. Hillary Clinton, the “establishment” candidate and heavy favorite going into the primary season, might have delivered the knockout blow to upstart Barack Obama. Instead, she managed only to hold serve in the biggest states that she absolutely had to have — New York, New Jersey, and California — and emerge on Wednesday with the very slightest of leads in delegates. It was enough for the Clinton campaign to declare the night a success, which it had to do as a show of confidence.

On the other hand, Obama seemed to have all the momentum coming into Super Tuesday, and he might well have staggered Clinton with a dramatic showing. Indeed, some polls had him ahead in California just prior to the primary, and had those polls proven reliable, Clinton might be hanging on for dear life right now. Instead, she won California, while Obama barely, barely eked out a win in Missouri in the wee hours of the morning.

With wins in Washington, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Maine over the weekend, Obama has now pulled nearly dead even with Clinton, and by the time you read this column, he may have won in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia (we go to press before the results of those primaries will be available). Pundits all over the country are suggesting that there is a real possibility that the Democrats may well make it to the Democratic Convention with neither Clinton nor Obama having secured enough delegates to win the nomination. There are quite a few twists and turns remaining, of course, but it is fair to say that this race is completely up in the air. Obama clearly has the momentum, but we saw how ephemeral that can be in the New Hampshire primary, when Clinton brought an abrupt halt to the momentum Obama seemed to have coming out of Iowa. Now he has the momentum back, and he also is raising more money. Surely it is not a good sign that Clinton donated $5 million to her own cause.

It also cannot be a good sign for the Clinton campaign that she replaced her campaign manager after being swept in the weekend primaries. One must assume that she believes the campaign is not going so well. Generally speaking, the replacement of one’s campaign manager in the middle of a heated campaign would be interpreted as a sign of big trouble, if not outright desperation.

Clinton may be in big trouble, but she still maintains an edge in the all important battle over the Super Delegates — which may end up deciding this race — and she is still favored to win in Texas and Ohio, which would continue her run of victories in the most populous states. If that scenario plays out, the pundits will have a field day, and so will the Republicans—provided the neo-cons can find it in their steely little hearts to forgive and forget their legendary grievances with John McCain, who has already secured the Republican nomination. Ann Coulter, for example, pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton if McCain was the Republican nominee. She claims that Clinton is actually MORE conservative than McCain, and would be “tougher on terror.”

Of course, Coulter is posturing, as usual, but for once in her life, she may actually have a point hiding in there somewhere. If Clinton does emerge as the Democratic nominee, and if the Democratic mantra of change is going to remain the rallying cry going into November, just how much of a change does Hillary Clinton represent compared to John McCain? Both are experienced politicians, both are reviled and admired at the same time within their own party. If this particular race comes to pass, it will be incredibly interesting to see just how many Republicans follow Coulter’s threat and vote for Clinton, and just as interesting to see how many Democrats will vote for McCain. I have at least three friends, all registered Democrats, who have already indicated that they will vote for McCain, if the alternative is voting for Clinton. I suspect this would be an intriguing subplot if it’s McCain and Clinton in the end.

I have believed for quite some time — certainly since Iowa, when Obama’s victory announced to the world that the coronation of Clinton would not be automatic — that the Democrats had BETTER nominate Obama, especially since it was all but certain that McCain would win the Republican nomination. If you will forgive a sports analogy, it is really all about match-ups. If the Republicans had trotted out a Bush-clone neo-con as the nominee, Clinton would stand a better chance of winning than she will against McCain. If anything, it is McCain who can make the better claim as a candidate for change, his support for the war in Iraq notwithstanding. It was he, and not Clinton, who challenged the Bush administration on its stance on torture. It was he, and not Clinton, who was the major mover behind campaign finance reform. Clinton’s record proves her far more cautious, more calculating than McCain. Which is exactly why potential voter crossover is a very real problem for Democrats.

For those who criticize Obama as being too inexperienced, too full of platitudes, well, it is not clear to me, given the history of politics in our country, that “experience” is necessarily a big advantage — it depends on the substance and quality of that experience, does it not? As for the platitudes, yes, Obama is going to have to follow up his persistent “Yes we can” chant with a few more details. Ideals are wonderful, but plans are better.

At the very least, by the time the North Carolina primary rolls around on May 6, the race may not yet be decided. Our votes may actually matter, for a change. Imagine that.

(Chris Cox can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

This Must Be the Place

Reading Room

  • Books that help bridge the political divide
    Books that help bridge the political divide Time for spring-cleaning.  The basement apartment in which I live could use a deep cleaning: dusting, washing, vacuuming. It’s tidy enough — chaos and I were never friends — but stacks of papers need sorting, bookcases beg to see their occupants removed and the shelves…
Go to top