Los Angeles Times: Ohio win boosts Clinton
WASHINGTON ” By breaking her long losing streak with a hard-fought victory in Ohio, Hillary Rodham Clinton has stalled rival Barack Obama’s momentum toward the Democratic presidential nomination.
But by no means has Clinton fully recovered from her month of lopsided defeats ” even if she also turns out to have won today in Texas, where results were not yet known.
Moreover, many see Clinton’s candidacy as essentially dead should she lose Texas, regardless of the Ohio victory that was projected by TV networks hours after the polls closed.
“She’s hanging on by her fingernails, and a win in Ohio doesn’t really change that, in my view,” said Garry South, a Democratic strategist who voted for Clinton last month in the California primary.
Clinton supporters will hold her Ohio victory as proof of a comeback in, no less, a state that routinely determines the presidency in November. They also will argue that she can build on it with a win in the April 22 primary in neighboring Pennsylvania. That would give her victories in most of the country’s biggest states, including California and New York.
In Ohio, Clinton succeeded in putting back together key parts of the coalition that had once made her nomination seem nearly inevitable. She finished well ahead of Obama among white, blue-collar and older voters, and she won the votes of two in three white women, according to an exit poll conducted for television networks and the Associated Press. In recent nominating contests around the country, Obama had begun cutting into Clinton’s support among those groups.
But the New York senator remains behind her counterpart from Illinois in the race for delegates to the party’s national convention this summer. Because of the Democratic Party’s proportional system for awarding delegates, Clinton’s victory in Ohio will barely narrow Obama’s lead.
As of early Tuesday evening, Obama was ahead with 1,397 delegates, while Clinton had 1,276, according to the Associated Press. It takes 2,025 to win the party’s White House nomination.
On the power of his 11-state February winning streak, Obama also has been steadily eroding Clinton’s lead in superdelegates, the party and elected officials who could decide the nomination if it is not settled when the primaries and caucuses end in June.
The shift of superdelegates toward Obama could intensify if she loses Texas. And that, along with pressure from party donors, could ultimately force the former first lady to withdraw from the race.
“I think a lot of these superdelegates are going to be of a mind that the time has come to end this thing,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist unaligned in the nomination battle.
Not that Clinton appears ready to concede. In a satellite television interview on Tuesday, a reporter in Waco, Texas, asked Clinton: “Do you buy in at all to the opinion that you actually need a double-digit win in this state to keep the campaign alive?”
“No, I sure don’t,” Clinton responded.
However she proceeds from here, Clinton’s Ohio win suggests that her scathing attacks on her rival have finally begun to pay off. Exit polls showed that nearly six in ten Ohio voters who decided in the last week went with Clinton.
Yet with the heightened assault came the risk of harming their party should Obama ultimately win the nomination. Polls of voters Tuesday indicated each Democrat’s supporters were less likely to embrace the other candidate than they had been after earlier contests.
“This campaign is taking on an air of desperation, and desperate people often do desperate things,” South said. “And those things are often not helpful to their party when they’re not the nominee.”
At stops in nearly every major city in Texas and Ohio, Clinton portrayed Obama as a overrated public speaker who lacked the qualifications to be president. Notably, Republican John McCain has already adopted the argument forwarded by Clinton.
In Ohio, where many blame job losses on the North American Free Trade Agreement, she accused Obama of duplicity on NAFTA. Her own evolution from NAFTA booster to NAFTA critic has long posed troubles for her own campaign, but she succeeded in throwing her rival on the defensive over an aide’s alleged suggestion to Canadian officials that Obama’s tough talk on the trade pact was political maneuvering.
Still, at a campaign stop in Houston on Tuesday, Clinton called the Democratic race “one of the most civil and positive primary campaigns that I can remember.”
Clinton also said there was still “a long road to the nomination.”