As we’re waiting for the Hoosier/Cackalack results to come in, what better time to talk long-shot hypotheticals? Let's look at Hillary Clinton’s best-case scenario tonight and what it would mean for her campaign.
She wins Indiana by double digits and North Carolina by single digits. Not only will rural whites have shied from Obama in greater numbers than before, but blacks won’t have come to his rescue. "Why can’t Obama close the deal?" becomes not just a quip but a rallying cry. Demographic abandonment helps her make the case that Obama is weak and getting weaker.
She tightens his delegate lead. Right now Obama leads by 154 pledged delegates—his strongest case against her. There’s no plausible way she can close this gap, as the Obama campaign delights in pointing out . What she can do, though, is close his lead so far—say, to within 100 delegates—that a popular vote win could swing the tide in her favor.
She wins the popular vote. This seems unlikely, barring disaster in Obamaland. Clinton has Kentucky and West Virginia in her pocket, but it would take a real zeitgeist shift for Oregon and South Dakota to swing her way. But if they did, she’d be within striking distance of Obama’s current 610,000 vote lead . To overtake him, though, she still needs to make sure …
Florida and Michigan count. Clinton can’t overtake Obama in the pledged delegate count, even if she persuades the DNC to seat these two delegations. But getting their delegates seated gives her an excuse to count their combined 1.7 million votes toward the popular vote tally. Right now, counting these two states, Obama leads her only by 123,000. Combined with wins in the remaining contests, she could well surpass him.
She persuades superdelegates Obama can’t win. If the last four things happen, then Clinton might get the remaining superdelegates to support her in large numbers. (We’re talking 60 percent to 70 percent of the uncommitted superdelegates.) Those currently supporting Obama could defect, too. Her case in a nutshell: Sure, some metrics might be on his side. But nominating him would be like racing a horse with its legs pre-broken. And who knows what " October surprise " lies in store.