A Strange, Slow Dance
Barack Obama's going to run the tables in February, and however much some prominent bloggers attempted to spin Washington and Maine as Hillary Clinton's to lose, this was obviously the case. Obama will end the month ahead by 100 to 200 delegates, and he will seemingly have the momentum to end the race in March. It may happen. But Hillary Clinton has been well ahead in the Ohio and Texas polls, and if that holds up on March 4, the race, once again, will be turned upside down. Victories in those large states would set the stage for the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, where Clinton is also far ahead in the latest polls, and victory there would then bring Clinton even, or put her ahead. Should that come to pass, she will have won most of the largest states and most of the largest primaries. Obama's ability to pile up victories in mostly small states, and mostly red states, will pale in comparison to Clinton's ability to win the big ones. Should Clinton sweep Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania, she will likely win the nomination. But that will still be a neat trick for her to pull off. Should Obama win Ohio and Texas, the nomination will be his. Should he split Ohio and Texas, he won't have the nomination won, but it will be very hard for Clinton to stop him. The question is whether Obama's string of victories, this month, will create a narrative of inevitability. His huge win in South Carolina, followed by a string of prominent endorsements, seemed to be creating such a narrative, leading into Super Tuesday, but Clinton stopped him cold in Massachusetts, New Jersey and California. Of the significant contested states, that day, Obama won only Missouri.
This race has been full of far too many surprises to predict what will happen, next month, but for the remainder of this month, we will be in a strange, slow dance, where every step is anticipated, if not quite choreographed. Keep an eye on the Ohio and Texas polls, but also be skeptical of reading too much into even those. The polls before Super Tuesday, particularly in California, seemed to indicate that Obama may have been on the verge of putting the race out of reach. That turned out to not be the case. Earlier, the polls also seemed to indicate New Hampshire would deliver Obama a crushing victory, and in that case they were just plain wrong. Don't be surprised if the polls again get it wrong, before March 4. No matter what happens this month, we really won't know a thing until that night. And we may end that night knowing, once again, that we know nothing about the state of the race.