Sitrep Revised: The Consequences of the Ohio and Texas Outcomes

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Mar 06, 2008 11:50 AM
Sitrep Revised: The Consequences of the Ohio and Texas Outcomes

Following the Ohio and Texas (etc.) results, a revised situation report (sitrep) — and the prospects….

Hillary Clinton:

Ohio and Texas, marking a stunning comeback, comprised her second New Hampshire. She remains behind in delegate votes, but she has stalled Barack Obama’s momentum — and momentum (Big Mo) can be crucial in presidential contests. A persisting question: To what end? Obama likely will regain Big Mo next week in Mississippi and Wyoming, giving him five weeks to work on eroding her opening lead in Pennsylvania — a state perhaps more Ohio than Ohio.

Senator Clinton achieved her latest comeback by re-galvanizing the traditional Democratic coalition: labor, interest groups, party stalwarts, key minorities and women — especially those single and/or working. She did not attack Obama on many issues, because on the issues there are few substantive differences between them. Rather, she prevailed by making Obama the issue. Late-deciders in Ohio and Texas, having been forced to focus on him, moved heavily toward her.

If she continues to do this successfully, she may yet become the nominee. Late Tuesday, she repeated that the presidency is not a place for on-the-job training, and said the nation needs something more than high-tone words and cadenced, sonorous speeches. It needs, she said, solutions — someone with the ability to translate words into action, to wring reality from hopes and dreams.

Barack Obama:

Ohio and Texas, two more huge states Obama has lost (he has won primaries in none of the big ones except his home state of Illinois), invite the query whether he can close the sale. He has amassed mostly caucus victories in states on the margins of traditional Democratic strength. Senator Clinton has won nearly all the primaries in states forming the heart of Democratic electoral power. If he is not winning those states in the primaries, could he — would he — carry them in the fall?

So Obama’s Big Mo may have been not merely stalled in Ohio and Texas, but stopped. And the Clintons likely will raise the level of Obama scrutiny. If they expect to regain the White House they will have to contrast Obama’s rhetorical and behavioral histories — with potentially calamitous consequences should he become the nominee.

For instance, is this adamantly ideological preacher of bipartisanship in fact a practitioner of “my way or the highway”? Is he less the “yes we can” optimist than the pessimist suggested by his wife’s expressed lack of pride in America? Does he reject the concept of American exceptionalism, as implied in his statement: “If we think that meeting with the president (of the United States) is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest”?

The Clintons and their machine are perfectly positioned — and perhaps uniquely inclined — to accomplish this comparative examination, with potentially devastating results for Obama now or in November. Their time is running short.

John McCain:

Ohio and Texas sealed the nomination for McCain — the ultimate Comeback Kid, left for dead just months ago. He has his hurdles: a low enthusiasm factor (compare, please, the electricity he and Obama generate), disgruntled social conservatives (albeit a diminishing few), dismal Republican turnout numbers in the primaries (as opposed to combined Democratic turnout), money, and six months of trying to get the voters’ attention while Senators Clinton and Obama fight it out.

But he has major advantages: a heavily damaged Senator Obama (if he is the Democratic nominee), Clinton fatigue and stratospheric negatives (if Billary is the nominee), Democratic division, his strong appeal to moderates and independents, and his emphatic conservatism against their devout leftism (last week he cited Obama as “the most liberal senator”) — giving McCain the advantage of right reason on issues from national security, taxes and health care to judges, foreign policy and energy independence.

“Now we begin,” he said late Tuesday. “Stand up and fight with me for America.” One way McCain might keep his name before an electorate distracted by the Democrats would be to begin publicly forming a prospective administration — naming (a) his appointees to top posts (e.g., his secretaries of state, treasury, and defense), and (b) his vice president. That way, the voters would know upfront the names of key players in his administration, and could contrast them tellingly to Clinton or Obama likelies. Correspondingly, McCain would multiply — and soon — administration legates campaigning for a McCain presidency across the land.