Clinton will need better numbers in Indiana to prove she can survive.

Down and on the way out.
April 25 2008 4:34 PM

The Hillary Deathwatch

Clinton will need better numbers in Indiana to prove she can survive.

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Clinton's win in Pennsylvania changes the whole Deathwatch calculus. Back when things were really dismal for her, no news was good news. As my colleague Chris Beam aptly put it in early April, her odds were like the health meter in Gears of War: It went up any time it wasn't actively going down. Now that she's on the up-and-up again, the adage about sharks applies: She has to stay in motion constantly to stay alive. (Note: Apparently this is only true of some sharks.) So a new poll that has Obama up 41 percent to Clinton's 38 percent in Indiana—functionally a tie, given the margin of error—is a giant inertia killer on the horizon. But continued attacks on Obama from several fronts offset the damage, so we're only docking her 0.2 points, bringing her to 11.9 percent.

Let's cover the bad news for Obama first: As Deathwatch mentioned yesterday, pastor-pariah the Rev. Jeremiah Wright recently gave an interview on PBS, which airs tonight. While some argue that any humanization of Wright can help Obama in the long run, the mere reminder that Wright exists cannot possibly help Obama today. Wright continues to be a liability for Obama, as we are reminded by this ad that the North Carolina Republican Party claims it will run ahead of the state's May 6 primary.


Offsetting the Wright story is Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., the House majority whip and highest-ranking African-American in Congress, who lashed out at Bill Clinton in an interview with the New York Times, calling the former president's statements on race over the course of the primary election "bizarre." Clyburn did not endorse either candidate ahead of the South Carolina primary, which Obama won with 55 percent of the vote back when John Edwards was still in the race, and Clyburn told the Times he doesn't have immediate plans to break his neutrality. In the same way that Wright's interview resurrects the Wright story, Clyburn's interview reminds us of Bill Clinton's comparison of Obama's campaign to Jesse Jackson's in late January, which begot a wave of bad publicity for Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Obama is reportedly out-fundraising Clinton in North Carolina by a 3-to-1 margin.

Of the nine remaining contests, North Carolina offers the largest number of pledged delegates, with 115. Obama still has a healthy lead here, so news that Clinton faces a tough fight in Indiana does not help her argument that she still has a mathematical chance of winning the nomination. Should there be any renewed discussion of factoring Florida and Michigan back into the bottom line, as CQ Politics suggests, she might be able to survive a lukewarm night next Tuesday. Otherwise, her most immediate goal remains surviving the next 10 days.

For a full list of our Deathwatches, click here. For a primer on Hillary's sinking ship, visit our first Deathwatch entry. Send your own prognostications to

Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.


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