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Clinton Holds the Line

Hillary Clinton scored major victories Tuesday with three projected wins, including Ohio and Texas, which had been described by her campaign as must-win states. Barack Obama won the Vermont primary and kept it close in Texas.

Their speeches Tuesday night said everything. For the first time in weeks, Clinton got to talk like a winner and mean it. At the same time, Obama confidently asserted his lead in delegates, which is likely to remain.

The sometimes disorienting seesaw of cable news commentary has tilted once again toward Clinton, and to be sure it was a big night for her. But there are caveats.

For one, the math is still against her. That, of course, could change, but the next contest, in Wyoming, is a caucus, which should work to Obama’s advantage, and then it’s on to Mississippi, where he is expected to do well.

But the big prize and the next major battleground will be Pennsylvania. Clinton could do very well there, and will probably try to make what amounts to a closing argument for her candidacy.

Expect to hear a lot about big states as the campaign works its way toward them. Clinton has won more of those than Obama, and will argue that they are key to a Democratic victory in the general election.

Expect also to see more negative campaigning. It cannot be denied that Clinton’s “kitchen sink” offensive had an effect. Obama dropped precipitously in the polls as last-minute attack ads ranging in topic from NAFTA to national security rained down on Texas and Ohio.

Clinton is likely to stick with what works, but that could be a mistake. This was the only time in the campaign that going negative worked for her. And the “red phone” ad that has gotten so much attention, Republicans have pointed out, would sound better if it came from John McCain.

Speaking of whom: McCain has officially secured his party’s nomination, which means he’s free to campaign against the Democrats, who still have to campaign against each other. Until now, he has focused mainly on front-runner Obama, but he could aim his fire at Clinton, and will if she impresses too much. That might actually suit her better, as it gives her a target who is not beloved by her party.

Such a development would hurt Obama’s ability to lump McCain and Clinton together, which he attempted to do in his speech Tuesday night.

There is a major hurdle, though, that Clinton will have to face sooner or later as April approaches. Despite her campaign’s protestations, Clinton has repeatedly stalled on the release of her tax returns and her White House schedule. It seems obvious at this point that there is some piece of information in those documents that is embarrassing to her — enough to get her to recant on a pledge, as she did last week. Either that, or it is the most ingenious of political diversions.

Polls have shown that Democrats love their candidates and don’t want them to drop out of the race. America, it seems, doesn’t want the Clinton-Obama show to end. On Tuesday, it got its wish.

CNN:

Sen. Hillary Clinton got her campaign back on track with projected wins in the Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island primaries.

Delegate-rich Texas and Ohio were considered must-wins for her campaign.

Obama had won 12 straight contests since Super Tuesday on February 5.
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