Posted Feb. 11, 2008 – Perhaps Maggie Williams is what Hillary Clinton needs to get her campaign back on the winning track. But, looking at the way the Barack Obama juggernaut was rolling this weekend, Williams had better move quickly.
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Williams, a key Democratic strategist and longtime Clinton friend, stepped in to replace Patti Solis Doyle after Obama trampled Clinton in some more unlikely states. He took major victories in Washington state, Nebraska , Louisiana , Maine and the Virgin Islands . This string of victories comes on the heels of those he racked up in 13 states on Super Tuesday and in advance of what most pundits believe will be Obama wins in the Potomac Primary – Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. – on Tuesday.
As it stands, Obama trails Clinton in the total number of delegates, 1,136-1,108, after accounting for Obama's three-state sweep of contests Saturday and his win Sunday in Maine 's caucuses. But this includes the tally of “super delegates” – those elected officials and party leaders – which has nothing to do with who’s winning the battle of the average voter. Clinton might be ahead in the number of establishment Democrats she lured early on (243-156), but even those can change their mind at the last minute. Both campaigns are exerting all the pressure they can to make a case for their share of the super delegates, who could ultimately decide the race.
However, the most immediate issue for Clinton is how to win the hearts and minds of Democratic voters. Surely she understands how divided her party would be if she were to be granted the nomination based on the whims of Democratic insiders instead of the votes cast by average citizens. Such a dubious kind of win would only fuel Obama’s steady criticism about the way politics tend to be handled in back rooms and out of sight and control of the American people.
Many political observers agree that Clinton ’s best chance for key victories will be in places like Texas , where there is a high concentration of Latino voters, and in blue-color, states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania . Her earlier victories in Hispanic-rich California and Nevada , and Northeast working states, like New York and Massachusetts , add credence to this argument. But even Ohio and Pennsylvania are not a given, considering both have considerable African-American pockets (and Obama’s killing Clinton in Black communities) and that Obama keeps on snatching states that Clinton had seriously hoped to net, like Maine this past weekend.
"It's hard to see a win for Sen. Clinton into March, into Ohio and Texas, which I think was what they're counting on," Joe Trippi, an adviser to former Democratic contender John Edwards, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "But even that's in jeopardy, I think, as Obama builds some momentum here."
And Obama, calculating that those party insiders might rationalize that the more experience Clinton should represent the Democrats against the presumptive Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain, has already started making his case to the American people. Over the past several days, he has been touting surveys showing that he – not his longer-in-the-tooth Democratic rival – has what it takes to beat the Arizona senator.
A CNN poll, conducted between February 1-3, shows that Obama leads McCain by 8 points, 52 percent to 44 percent. And in a Time poll over the same period, Obama leads McCain by 7 points – 48 percent to 41 percent. Both of those polls are outside a 3-percent margin of error. But the CNN poll shows that Clinton is 3 percentage points ahead of McCain, 50 percent to 47 percent, while the Time poll shows a dead heat between Clinton and McCain. Because of the margin of error, she has no margin for error.
Obama has been hammering Clinton about her high negatives and reminding voters that he has broad appeal that "goes beyond our party. I think there is no doubt that she has higher negatives than any of the remaining Democratic candidates. That's just a fact, and there are some who will not vote for her."
There is some truth to what Obama is saying. The CNN poll shows that 44 percent of voters say they don’t like Clinton . That’s compared to 36 percent of those who don’t like McCain and 31 percent who say they don’t like Obama. And among White men, McCain gets an 18-point advantage, 57 percent to 39 percent. But, while White men still favor McCain over Obama, the hate gap is much smaller, 49 percent to 46 percent, a statistical draw onsidering the 3-point margin of error.
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