The Hillary Deathwatch
With Indiana within reach, Clinton's chances inch up.
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The home stretch to Indiana and North Carolina is pocked by negative ads, indecisive polls, and last-minute revelations about Barack Obama and the Teamsters. With an Indiana win within reach, Clinton's chances inch up 0.3 points to 12.6 percent.
Clinton gets a Monday-morning gift in today's Wall Street Journal: Barack Obama reportedly told the Teamsters that he would reduce federal oversight of the union. An Obama spokesman confirmed to the WSJ that Obama believes the current oversight system has "run its course." On Good Morning America, Obama denied having made a "blanket commitment" to scrap federal oversight, which was instituted in 1989 to settle a racketeering lawsuit by the Justice Department. Rather, he said, "the union has done a terrific job cleaning house," and he'll "examine" the issue as president. The Clinton camp today cried hypocrisy—will he or won't he? But Politico points to a similar statement made by Clinton that she would be "very open" to re-examining the decree. The issue won't decide the primary, but John McCain's ad team can probably squeeze a few spots out of it.
Speaking of which, you know it's the eleventh hour when attack ads start flying. Clinton doubles down on the gas-tax holiday angle, despite criticism from her opponent, Senate leadership, and economists. Obama hits back, accusing Clinton of pushing bad policy for political gain. (Look for pundits to treat Indiana's vote as a mini-referendum on this issue, deservedly or not.) Clinton also produces a mailer questioning Obama's support of gun rights.
Obama won Guam by seven votes Saturday, but that doesn't really change math: The candidates each get two delegates. Obama did, however, net four superdelegates to Clinton's zero over the weekend, plus two more today. Clinton's lead still holds at 19 supers, although a couple say they'd consider switching to Obama after June 3 if he wins the pledged delegate count and popular vote.
With these supers in pocket, the Obama campaign starts its official countdown to the nomination. The number of delegates needed to win now stands at 276. It may seem a bit premature, but keep in mind there are 187 pledged delegates at stake in tomorrow's contests and only 217 left after that. Of course, this assumes the magic number is 2,025. If you count Florida and Michigan—as the Clinton campaign insists we should—the number is 2,209.
Two national polls are tantalizingly contradictory. USA Today/Gallup puts Clinton up 51 percent to 44 percent. (Back in February, Obama led by 10.) CBS/New York Times gives Obama the lead, 50 percent to 38 percent. Pick your fave! On the local level, Clinton's Indiana lead seems to be holding: Two out of three weekend polls put her a few points ahead. In North Carolina, Obama's lead hovers around eight points, according to several polls. The scoring isn't too complicated: A Clinton sweep would change the tone of the race, but not the math. (It would, however, inch her toward a potential popular-vote victory.) An Obama sweep would put extreme pressure on Clinton to drop out. So, of course, the result will be as inconclusive as possible: a decisive but not commanding win by Obama in North Carolina and a slight, candidacy-justifying win by Clinton in Indiana.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Illustration by Rob Donnelly.