Mrs. Clinton still alive, but barely

By Jonathan Jacobson

Tuesday’s primary, as many suspected, has changed very little in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Sen. Barack Obama is still up by about 150 in the pledged delegate tally. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is still in the red (they have now transformed her Web site into an enter-your-credit-card-number-here fundraising machine). And legions of people within her own party are still calling for her to drop out of the race.

But some headlines from newspaper Web sites are telling a different story. From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “With Clinton’s win, doubts on Obama.” From The New York Times: “Clinton says tide is turning.” From the Baltimore Sun: “Obama struggles to win over traditional Democratic base.”

A reasonably sized change. But not really.

The reality of the situation is that Obama is still the presumptive nominee. He has more votes, he has carried more states and he has the cash reserves to keep going until the end. He may be outspending her three or four to one, but he’s still spending less than his total take.

Meanwhile, Clinton is actually spending more than she’s bringing in. That explains the credit card entry form at the front of her site, which she plugged during her acceptance speech.

“Now, we can only keep winning if we can keep competing with an opponent who outspends us so massively, so I hope you’ll go to HillaryClinton.com,” she told supporters in Pennsylvania last night.

The support is nice, but she needs the cash.

Clinton’s biggest argument on behalf of her candidacy right now is that, because of her ability to carry the big swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, she will be better suited to take on Sen. John McCain in November.

But she won none of those states by massive margins, which is no indicator of her guaranteed success against a Republican opponent. And many of her supporters in those states are likely to convert to Obama-heads when she drops out of the race.

It’s true that Obama’s campaign has seen a few snags in the last few weeks.

Between the Rev. Wright affair and his divisive words at that San Francisco speech, the junior senator from Illinois has gotten himself in more trouble in one month than he has in an entire year.

They knew they weren’t going to win Pennsylvania, which is why they high-tailed it over to Evansville, Ind., on Tuesday night before the votes were even counted.

At his speech that night, he even admitted some of his own shortcomings.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics,” he said. “The bickering that none of us are immune to and that trivializes the profound issues.”

His slump, though, is temporary. He has to make a much bigger mistake before she can pull ahead of him in any serious way.

If Clinton is able to take Indiana and North Carolina in two weeks, she may convince some superdelegates to side with her – or at least make their choice more difficult. But polls show that Obama is probably going to win North Carolina, and the race in Indiana will be very close.

Some of her aides have hinted that if she can’t win Indiana, they will suggest she drop out of the race entirely. The same inner-circle musings circulated before Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

It’s as though Clinton is perpetually on the precipice of failure. The fact is that her campaign is sputtering. She has such a slight chance of winning that it is beginning to seem impossible, but she exudes a confidence on the trail and at her speeches that convinces people otherwise.

With McCain strutting around like he owns the place, Clinton’s doomed candidacy is now problematic for the Democrats. Her negative campaigning and those fear-mongering ads – one unashamedly asks “Who do you think has what it takes?” as though it were a Gatorade commercial – are poisoning the debate.

She’s trying to convince us that she’s the best choice for the party even if the voters have decided that she isn’t.

Jonathan is a senior in English and rhetoric. He would log on to HillaryClinton.com, but his credit card is, er, maxed out.