Barack Obama sailed into a perfect storm of bad publicity, scandal, crossover Republicans, energized women, a resourceful and hard-working opponent in Hillary Clinton, and remorseful media bending over backwards to throw her a lifeline.
By midnight, Tuesday, it was becoming clear that the race for the Democratic nomination was far from over, as Hillary rode a tidal wave to victory in Ohio, eked out a popular vote victory in Texas, handily took Rhode Island, and left Obama with only the consolation prize of Vermont. Read all about it.
With Hillary now claiming wins in nearly all the biggest states, she’s sure to press her campaign in remaining primaries, while tacking to bring Florida and Michigan into play, states where she won symbolic victories with no delegates at stake. She’s almost certain to press for re-votes there.
Obama ran into this tsunami with landfall in sight, following eleven consecutive primary victories. As Tuesday dawned, however, supporters could sense an ugly and powerful storm brewing. Consider:
1. Bad publicity swamped his campaign, especially on two fronts. The trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a longtime friend and business consultant of Obama’s started on Monday in Chicago, one day before the primary in neighboring Ohio. Rezko, 52, “is charged with buying political influence with campaign money and using it to launch a multimillion-dollar shakedown scheme aimed at companies hoping to build hospitals or invest state pension money,” according to the Associated Press. The timing could not have been worse, coming in the wake of reports suggesting Obama’s chief finance adviser had held secret meetings in Canada, in which he contradicted Obama’s anti-NAFTA rhetoric in Ohio. Obama made things worse by denying (perhaps innocently) that such a meeting took place. Both episodes cast Obama’s idealism-propelled candidacy in a cynical light. Read about it here.
2. For days Rush Limbaugh and cohorts had been urging Texas Republicans to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary in order to improve Hillary’s chances, as they consider her the less formidable candidate come November. They’d better be careful what they wish for because….
3. Hillary has never looked stronger. With Bill below-decks, Hillary turned in big media appearances, including a good showing in a debate with Obama, charming appearances on Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show, a strong media blitz complete with frightening (and evidently effective) commercials, and an old-fashioned personal-appearance blitz she handled with grace and charisma despite hectic schedules and little sleep.
4. Big Media latched onto her line that they’d treated her unfairly, and nearly all the news networks addressed this fairness issue, lending credence to her self-described role as victim of a biased media, and virtually handing her the sympathy vote.
Women and Hispanics, heartened by so many currents shifting her way, rallied round. In the end, it was all too much for Obama, at least on this particular Tuesday. Despite a daunting mathematical lead overall, and friendlier seas ahead, Obama’s promise of a triumphant and speedy landfall receded over the horizon… at least for now.