Barack Obama won 11 out of 11 primaries and caucuses from Super Tuesday to Feb. 19. Hillary Clinton won three out of four contests on March 4.
Suddenly, the look and feel of the Democratic presidential race were different. Yet the delegate count has changed hardly at all. Three victories in four states with 370 delegates netted Clinton only about a 20-delegate edge, leaving her still about 100 delegates behind. On the night that John McCain officially clinched the Republican nomination, the course of the Democratic race seemed less clear and more fraught with peril than ever.
Hillary Clinton appeared confident and vibrant on primary night, while Obama's graceful cadences sounded a little emptier than before. The storyline is changing, too. For the first time in a long campaign cycle, mainstream media have been pursuing stories that reflect badly on Obama: his close ties and property purchase with Chicago political operator Tony Rezko, now on trial in federal court; his chief economic adviser's purported assurance to a Canadian diplomat that Obama doesn't really mean he'll ditch NAFTA, as he was suggesting in trade-wary Ohio; Obama's pastor's recent award to the man Obama refers to as "Minister Farrakhan."
McCain takes questions until the last reporter runs out of things to ask. Obama terminated a probing press conference last week after eight questions with the lame excuse that he was running late. Obama's oratory has been compared to John Kennedy's. But he doesn't have Kennedy's gift for gracefully parrying hostile questions.
The March 4 results suggest Obama may not turn out to be as strong a candidate against McCain this November as he is in current polls. Clinton's "red phone" ad asked which candidate you would want to rely on to respond to a crisis at 3 o'clock in the morning. Obama's campaign said this was a Republican tactic.
Yes -- but Walter Mondale ran a similar ad against Gary Hart in 1984. It worked then, and it worked now. In Texas, where the ad ran, Clinton got a 60 percent to 39 percent margin among those who made up their minds in the last three days. That single ad may have made the difference in a contest she had to win to continue in the race.