Posted Friday, Feb. 29, 2008, at 12:07 PM
Ah, expectations. With yet another Tuesday right around the corner, the campaigns are spinning like dreidels.
The Obama campaign is essentially arguing that Hillary is beaten on the board. On a conference call this morning, David Plouffe said that Clinton will "fail miserably" at closing the pledged delegate gap. He added that if there’s a tie in Ohio and Texas, Clinton would need to win 75 percent of pledged delegates from there on in order to close the gap. ( Slate ’s Delegate Calculator offers a much more conservative estimate of 62 percent or so.) It’s a notable shift in rhetoric: Before, Obama’s team claimed he was still the underdog. Now, they’re saying Hillary has no mathematical chance of winning. When confronted with a similar dilemma , Mike Huckabee said he "majored in miracles." Clinton has not yet resorted to the supernatural.
She has, however, resorted to the highly implausible. Clinton’s camp is raising sky-high expectations for Obama. Their latest "memo" argues that given all the time Obama has spent in Ohio and Texas " meeting editorial boards, courting endorsers, holding rallies, and—of course—making speeches," and considering all the money spent—$18.4 million to Clinton’s $9.2 million for advertising in the next four states—anything other than total victory constitutes failure: "If he cannot win all of these states with all this effort, there's a problem."
In short: Obama says Clinton has no chance. Clinton says Obama needs a blowout. Both claims are fairly over-the-top. But at least Obama’s has the benefit of being vaguely rooted in science. Plus, they can both finally agree on something: Obama is ahead.