Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Obama sweep

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Even at my most optimistic, I thought Obama would win Wisconsin by 8-12 points. Turns out I was wrong. The won by 17, yet another decisive victory on a night when he won his ninth and tenth contests in a row, a post-Super Tuesday sweep. Let's add the latest votes to our table:

-- Louisiana (2/9): CHECK (57-36 -- 21 points)
-- Nebraska (2/9): CHECK (68-32 -- 36 points)
-- Washington (2/9): CHECK (68-31 -- 37 points)
-- Virgin Islands (2/9): CHECK (90-8 -- 82 points)
-- Maine (2/10): CHECK (59-40 -- 19 points)
-- Maryland (2/12): CHECK (60-37 -- 23 points)
-- Virginia (2/12): CHECK (64-35 -- 29 points)
-- D.C. (2/12): CHECK (75-24 -- 51 points)
-- Hawaii (2/19): CHECK (76-24 -- 52 points)
-- Wisconsin (2/19): CHECK (58-41 -- 17 points)

Before the sweep, I thought Obama would probably do very well but that he could lose in Washington, Maine, Virginia, and/or Wisconsin. But look at those results. Ten contests, not a close result anywhere to be found.

And so now we're on to March 4, less than two weeks away, with two big contests in Ohio and Texas and two smaller contests in Rhode Island and Vermont. Obama has drawn even with Clinton in Texas, where the hybrid delegate-selection system seems to favour him, and, according to the polls, he is closing the gap in Ohio (a new poll has him down by just 9 points).

So let's add these contests to our table:

-- Ohio (3/4)
-- Rhode Island (3/4)
-- Texas (3/4)
-- Vermont (3/4)

As well as these:

-- Wyoming (3/8)
-- Mississippi (3/11)

I know the Clinton campaign dismisses the small states (i.e., the states Clinton doesn't win) as unimportant and irrelevant, yet another excuse from a campaign full of them, but their contests count, and Obama should win both Wyoming and Mississippi, presuming he doesn't get blown out in Ohio and Texas.

Pennsylvania comes next on April 22, over a month later, another key state for Clinton, but, by then, the race could be over. As NBC's Chuck Todd has suggested, Obama is just "one win away from putting this race to bed" -- that is, a win in either Ohio or Texas.

I don't want to get ahead of myself, and I keep reminding myself that there is still a long way to go, that anything, anything, could happen, and that it's foolish to write off the Clintons, ever, but, after what we saw on Tuesday, after what we've seen this month, on Super Tuesday and through the sweep that followed, Obama is looking awfully good. A win in either Ohio or Texas, once thought impossible, now seems possible, perhaps even likely -- and he could even win both.

But that's the story of the race, isn't it? An Obama win was once thought impossible, the nomination Clinton's to lose. Wasn't it all supposed to be over by Super Tuesday? And yet here we are, the impossible become possible, with Obama the frontrunner, with a clear lead, the Clinton campaign desperate and dirty.

No, it isn't over yet, but the impossible that became the possible may soon be the reality. And what an incredible run it has been so far.

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