Only yesterday morning I posited a very strong Obama performance, saying
Predictions in primaries are always dicey. It is cold today, it may rain or snow in parts of the region. Still, I expect a heavy turnout, and would think the lower end of Obama's margin in the two states is 18%, and conceivable could reach 25. In DC it will be a blow-out: the margin will be better than 2-1, and it is not inconceivable that Obama could reach 70%.
. As I look at not quite complete returns from the three jurisdictions, I see VA at 64-35 (+29), MD at 59-37 (+22), and DC at 75-24 (+51!). My title had asked the question "Game on, or game over?" I now thing, barring something totally unexpected, the answer is getting very close to the latter. Or to use an old metaphor from sports, I hear the fat lady warming up in the next room.
First, some side notes. Two incumbent congressmen lost in primaries. As part of the netroots, I am delighted at the victory of Donna Edwards over Al Wynn in Maryland CD, even more so because it was so substantial. She defeated him by better than 2-1 in the Montgomery portion of the CD, and with still somewhat incomplete returns in Prince George's leads there by more than 10. Donna, whom I first met at a progressive event the day / evening Kos and Jerome kicked off their book tour in DC for CTG, is quality people, and it is quite satisfying that the Wynn attempt to smear her because as a single mom she had had difficulty paying her taxes backfired: there are far too many people in the CD who have experienced similar problems. And I am overjoyed that my friend Adrienne Christian, who had served as Deputy Campaign Manager for the Jim Webb campaign and who had been kind enough to spend several hours talking with my students, has this substantial victory to add to her resume - she defeated an incumbent who was openly supported by the Speaker and the Majority Leader! Perhaps this victory might get a little attention from Congressional leaders?
On a note that is somewhat more mixed, Republican Wayne Gilchrest lost his battle to retain the nomination in the 1st CD to a real right-winger who was endorsed by James Dobson among others. On the one hand, this puts that seat possibly within play, on the other Gilchrest was a good guy. I say that not only because we have similarities - he is a former Marine and a former social studies - but he was one of the last true moderate Republicans in the House and was terrific on things like environmental issues.
Analyzing the returns from last night, it is amazing to look at the results from Virginia. Clinton broke 40% in only one CD, the 9th, in SW, which she won 65-33. Obama was over 59.5% in the other 10, reaching 79.95 in Bobby Scott's 3rd CD (while keeping Clinton below 20%)! The turnout was, despite bad weather in some parts of the state, fairly substantial. And Obama kicked ass on issues and in just about every possible demographic except white women. The most significant data point for me was when I heard - through a source who had access to the exit polls - that Obama was besting Clinton on who would be the better commander in chief: that guaranteed that she would take a substantial loss, and even though I was stuck in our horrendous traffic jams, I relaxed knowing how big the victory would be.
Last night if you listened to analysts, it is very hard to see how Clinton can possibly catch up in voter-selected delegates. Even should she now pivot and decide to go into WI with all guns blazing, she will lose that state: the major endorsements to date favor Obama, he will have party organization in Milwaukee and whatever Gov. Doyle can bring to bear, and the student vote will, especially after last night's fantastic rally in Madison, also heavily favor him. And remember, not only does WI allow crossover voting, people can register on the day of the primary, and that will also heavily favor Obama. Despite demographics far less friendly to him than MD and VA - WI is only 6% black, compared to VA at 19.9 and MD at 29.5 - I would still expect a comfortable double-digit lead
Besides, as of now, I would expect Clinton to have major problems raising sufficient money to be competitive. Both OH and TX have multiple media markets. How many of her donors will be willing to dig deeply again given the lambasting she took last night? And how much more will the money now flow for Obama, given the enthusiasm of his substantial victory? And since Huckabee has no money, and won nothing despite his strong effort in Virginia, there is little reason for independents to vote in a Republican primary when they can cross over and vote Democratic.
I have heard people worry that some conservative Republicans might crossover to vote for Clinton since she is the weaker candidate in the general. I doubt it. In fact, real conservative Republicans hate the Clintons, mand might well turn out on the D side merely to have a chance to vote against her while they can. Others are likely to be drawn to Obama in a positive fashion.
Can Clinton survive by going exceedingly negative? I have already picked up bits and pieces that she will try - she mentioned Obama's relationship with Excelon during her interview with the local ABC affiliate on Monday night, we know they are still shopping the Rezko angle. And last night I picked up something which I cannot guarantee has its origins in the Clinton camp, but sounds like the way they have been known to operate: someone tells you that he is afraid that the Republicans will attack Obama because of his minister, that s/he is picking up rumblings to that effect. This is just about the equivalent of a push poll, and puts out a meme while blaming it on the Republicans, thus reinforcing the idea Clinton wants to push that there is danger that Obama has not been fully vetted, while claiming she has been.
I have some thoughts of my own. I think that if Clinton wants to continue in the campaign she has an obligation to release her tax returns now, and not require the voters to buy a pig in a poke. Absent the release of those returns, she herself has NOT been fully vetted.
I have no doubt that the press will begin to examine Obama more closely, now that he seems like the presumptive nominee.
I could be wrong, but I think remaining big names who have not yet endorsed will now be reluctant to board the sinking Clinton ship. It is not inconceivable that as polls begin to reflect the impact of last night that Obama may quickly catch up in super delegates, and thus widen his overall lead ahead of Clinton to triple digits, even before we get to March 4. This will be especially true if we see closure in TX and OH and a widening of national margins of Obama over both Clinton in the primaries and McCain in the general.
And listening to Obama's speech last night, I heard a clear outreach to the message of John Edwards, who if he were to endorse Obama would be nailing shut at least one side of the lid of the coffin into which Clinton may now have been placed. Were he to do so, I think the unions that supported him who have not yet endorsed would also come on board, and that might well mean Clinton would be in jeopardy of losing OH and PA - and I think it quite likely that she may lose TX anyhow.
Officially it is not over. It is hard to see how Clinton has any realistic hope of even getting close in voter-selected delegates. And there is no way, given the size of the losses she has taken, to believe that any sensible super delegate would want to take away from Obama a substantial victory that has been given by the voters, unless one can find something major that would be disqualifying, and given how hard the Chicago papers have dug the past few years, I find that exceedingly unlikely.
Last night, as I was listening to Chuck Todd say that after HI and WI Clinton would need to win the big three of OH, TX and PA by 60%+ in order to make it close, I could not help but note that to date the only state in which Clinton's numbers have reached 60% was AR. She could not even reach that number in the state she represents in the Senate. By contrast, last night alone Obama exceeded the 60% number three times.
I know one should never count the Clintons out. But this is getting remarkably close to TKO time. And I think money people and super delegates know it, and are going to be reluctant to throw good money and efforts away on what now seems an almost impossible mission.
Our efforts in the Potomac region are now successfully complete. Somerom our area will use the forthcoming holiday weekend to travel to WI on behalf of Obama. Others will begin the process of making phone calls and sending emails to TX and OH and possibly even Penna. For now, for myself, I plan to refocus my efforts on my own state of Virginia. With Obama on the top of the ticket - and I now have little doubt of such an outcome - it is possible that we can expand our current 3 of 11 Congressional seats held by Democrats to as many as 7. And that is the biggest contribution I think I can make on behalf the future of this country, to ensure working majorities in both chambers of Congress.
I know that some will say my analysis is overly optimistic. I was accused of that yesterday, with people trying to tell me to remember NH, even after I demonstrated analytically why this was a very different situation. And I do not believe that Obama can totally pivot to a general election strategy. But he was right to begin to phrase things in terms of the Bush-McCain policies, to make the major part of his focus on his opponent in November.
It ain't over 'til it's over. And officially that will not be until Denver, unless Clinton acknowledges the futility of a scorched-earth campaign. But last night was as significant a set of victories as I have seen in many a year.
At least, that's my opinion, and absent data to the contrary, I plan to stick with it.
What do you think?