Once again the candidates are headed toward what has been billed as a climactic showdown, but which is likely to turn out like the others before it: one more bump in the road.
Remember when Iowa and New Hampshire, then South Carolina and Nevada, then California and New York, were supposed to put a stop to all of this? Well, it hasn’t stopped. Maybe, as some have suggested, because it’s easier to write about and talk about a close campaign, and it’s easier to pay the people who do all of that if campaign dollars get thrown at the media, which keeps it going.
Or maybe the voters are genuinely torn and they’re enjoying it. And, hey, when’s the last time a presidential candidate had to spend so much time in Texas? Oh, right.
The real reason it isn’t over is unpleasant. Barring some catastrophe, be it a dirty bomb or an ill-advised infidelity, this campaign is on autopilot, and there are some things we just know are going to happen. We’re pretty certain that Barack Obama will win more pledged delegates and that Hillary Clinton, without persuading the superdelegates to veto the will of the people and join her en masse, will lose.
It is still possible, though unlikely, for Clinton to win. If she stole the momentum, for instance, things could change drastically. But that probably won’t happen. The fear now is that she could be damaging the party’s nominee by attacking Obama in the same way that John McCain is likely to. Experience? More time in the Senate? Tough? We’ll hear all this again if Obama is the nominee, only in a different vocal range.
That is why Clinton is under immense pressure to hang up her campaign pumps and call it one for the history books. The same people who’ve been sticking by her have to worry about the next battle, and the chances of getting in cozy with an Obama administration.
But Clinton is correct when she says she’s a fighter. She has shown no indication at any point in this race of giving up. Even though the delegate math is decidedly against her and critics fear that her attacks on Obama are only helping McCain, Clinton appears as determined as ever to press on. Rumors fill the air of delegate-allocation lawsuits in Texas and forcing the Michigan/Florida issue—even targeting and trying to flip pledged delegates. Rumors, sure, but if any are true it’s a sign the Clinton campaign isn’t planning on throwing in the towel. If she doesn’t win Texas and Ohio, on to Pennsylvania. Her tone might change, but we don’t see her going anywhere.
Here are some predictions, based on what might happen on Tuesday:
A week ago, it was proclaimed that Clinton had to win Ohio and Texas by huge margins to stand any chance of claiming the nomination. She won’t, but if she wins both by any margin, she’ll call it a major victory and it could shift the momentum seismically.
If she wins just one of the two—most likely Ohio—expect a brief victory dance, an attempt to cast the night as a disappointment for Obama, and then a quick jet to Pennsylvania, the next big round in the contest.
Look to see how she does in Rhode Island on Tuesday. Obama is expected to crush her in Vermont, but she has held a strong lead in Rhode Island, and we wonder how the campaign would spin a big victory there.
But if she loses Ohio and Texas, it’s all over. Knockout. She might limp on for a while, but that would just be sad for everybody ... which could score her points in Wyoming.
Say what you will of Hillary Clinton, she is nothing if not tenacious.