Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hillary wins Puerto Rico... and?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As expected, Hillary has won the PR primary by a wide margin. With almost a quarter of precincts reporting, she's up by a 2-to-1 margin, 67 to 33. (CNN has the results here.)

Not much will change in terms of the delegate math, however. Hillary will pick up a net gain, but, with expected wins on Tuesday in Montana and South Dakota, Obama should wrap up the nomination.

The bottom line, according to TPM's Greg Sargent: "After Tuesday, Obama may need less than two-dozen super-dels to clinch the nomination. Hillary would need more than 16 dozen of them."


Update: With almost all precincts reporting, it's Hillary up 68 to 32.

And she still doesn't seem to realize it's over.

(While Obama is being as magnanimous as ever.)


Update 2: This, from the NYT, bothers me: "In many ways, Mr. Obama is wheezing across the finish line after making a strong start: He has won only 6 of the 13 Democratic contests held since March 4, drawing 6.1 million votes, compared with 6.6 million for Mrs. Clinton."

I do not dispute the numbers -- Hillary has won more votes and contests since March 4 -- but how is Obama's performance akin to "wheezing"?

As I have said over and over again, Hillary is a very strong candidate. There's no disputing that. To suggest that Obama should have been able to "finish" by now -- that is, finish her off -- is to make much less of Hillary than she really is. Pundits have made that suggestion, but so have Hillary and her campaign, along with her supporters and surrogates, and it's what I've come to call "self-condescension." Is it that Obama is so weak or that Hillary is so strong? The latter, clearly. Were it not for Obama and the movement that has coalesced around him, Hillary would have wrapped up the nomination a long, long time ago. And, even with Obama leading, she continues to do extremely well. Why should we be surprised by this?

Furthermore, while it is true that Hillary has won more votes and contests since March 4, it was Obama who drew even with her on Super Tuesday -- winning more contests, proving to be an equally (if not the more) formidable candidate, and crushing the presumed inevitability of her nomination -- and then ran the table from February 9 to 19, winning 11 contests in a row. It's not that he's "wheezing," it's that the calendar, which benefitted Obama back in February, had Hillary-friendly contests scheduled for March 4 and later, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico.

The pundits, along with Hillary and her campaign, are treating this race like a college football season, where a loss early on is far less meaningful than a loss at or near the end: a school loses one and then wins ten, it goes to the BCS and competes for the national championship; it wins ten and then loses one, doubts erupt. But this isn't college football, and Obama's recent losses to a strong rival candidate in states that are friendly to her should not be taken to be signs of inherent weakness and impending doom. Obama's February run was amazing, and those contests count just as much as the more recent ones, but, in general, the race has gone pretty much according to expectations.

And it's a race that Obama has won.

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