Wait, Clinton Does Have a Shot?

A campaign blog.
April 24 2008 12:53 PM

Wait, Clinton Does Have a Shot?

Hillary Clinton is screwed. Oh wait, she has a chance.Actually, she’s screwed again. Hold up, she’s about to win!

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The media can’t seem to make up its mind. Now, in thepost-Pennsylvania lull, journalists are deciding that in fact Clinton can win. Over at The Fix, Chris Cillizza mapsout her path to the nomination. The Wall Street Journal’s A1 proclaims,"Clinton Win Stirs Doubts on Obama." The NewYork Times discusses Obama’s "struggle to win over key blocs."

Here’s what I don’t understand about all this: Clintonwas going to win Pennsylvania all along, justas she was always going to win Ohio and Obamais going to win North Carolina.The only huge upset in this race has been New Hampshire. Otherwise, demographics havedecided everything. Sure, Obama is having trouble winning over "key voting blocs"like seniors and the white working class. But that has been the story of this raceall along.

To be sure, the fact that voters aren’t coalescing aroundObama might worry some superdelegates. Whatdoes it mean that he can’t "close the deal"? Democrats are used to havingthe nominee decided early in the race, so the ongoing split is seen as aweakness. The biggest concerns center on the fear that Clinton voters will ditch Obama for McCain. Butthere’s evidence that abandonment cuts both ways. The Times piece points out that Pennsylvaniaexit polls show "69 percent of white Democrats would vote for Mr. Obama in ageneral election campaign over Mr. McCain; 73 percent of black Democrats saidthey would vote for Mrs. Clinton over Mr. McCain." That’s not a hugedifference.

But more importantly, the landscape is guaranteed to changeby November, and supers know this. McCain will make some dumb comments, aswould Clintonwere she to win the nomination. For superdelegates to shift to Clinton now on vague "electability"grounds despite the delegate count would require a supreme lack of confidence in Obama, not to mention some seriouschutzpah.

Clinton’s" pathto the nomination ," meanwhile, does exist. She could win Indiana,raise truckloads of money, find some way to count Florida in the popular vote, and get Obamato shoot himself repeatedly in both feet. All the while, she needs to run aperfect campaign. But even then, superdelegates will have to look themselves inthe mirror and justify overturning the presidential victory of the first blackpresidential nominee. If, after that, Clintonsomehow lost in November, would Obama’s base ever forgive them?

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.