With Hillary Clinton’s victories in Texas and Ohio yesterday, her campaign is trumpeting her “comeback.” Which of course takes a lot of hubris, considering Obama never led in Ohio at all and reduced thirty-point leads in both states to a less-than-ten-point decision in Ohio and a near-statistical tie in Texas’ primary (and a likely victory in the Texas caucuses), but then again, you don’t go into politics without a lot of balls, metaphorical or otherwise.
The problem, though, is that Clinton’s path to the nomination is very, very difficult, far moreso than Obama’s is. At this point, it’s a given that neither candidate will gain the nomination without the vote of a good number of superdelegates. The problem is that the superdelegates will obviously lean towards whichever candidate has the most pledged delegates.
Many other people have already written about this at length, so I won’t go into the details, but the short version is thus: Hillary Clinton needed much bigger wins than she got last night to have a serious shot at erasing Obama’s lead in pledged delegates.
Now, there’s actually a second (and I think valid) argument for Hillary to argue her way to the nomination despite having less pledged delegates, and it’s the “flirtation” argument. The narrative is simple: “people considered Obama for a while, but eventually came back around to supporting Hillary.” Political campaigns are ultimately about creating a story, and that’s the story that Clinton can use to explain away her pretty lousy campaign up until this point. And it’s a pretty decent story.
The problem, however, is simple. Next week, there are primaries in Wyoming and Mississippi, both of which Obama should win by fairly large margins. When he does so, that blows away the “Hillary as eventual choice” narrative I just described. That’ll leave three weeks (yeesh) for the Pennsylvania primary where he’s already closed to within six points of Clinton. If he wins Pennsylvania (even very narrowly), that effectively decides the nomination then and there, because Hillary won’t have the votes and she won’t have the narrative.