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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Mood Swings

It’s been a crazy 18 hours or so in the Democratic presidential contest. The early take on the impact of yesterday’s primaries was that both candidates had lost the opportunity for a big victory, with HRC once again avoiding disaster by narrowly winning Indiana. As the staff post this morning showed, however, the media narrative quickly shifted to one of gloom and doom for Clinton. And Matt Compton was probably right in suggesting that a stampede of network pundits led by Tim Russert’s midnight declaration that Obama had won the nomination was largely responsible for this dramatic mood swing.
As a skeptic about the almighty power of the punditocracy to dictate political developments, my attitude today has been: Show me the superdelegates! Maybe Matt’s right that the trickle of new superdelegate endorsements for Obama (see his Update below) could soon become an irresistable tide. We’ll probably know within another day or two if the Supers are going to end this thing, or hold off for a while to see if Obama commits some terrible error that reinforces the Clinton campaign’s implicit claim that he’s unelectable. And as Matt points out, there are tactical reasons why the Obama campaign might want HRC to stay in the race until May 20.
But if superdelegates and party leaders decide, for whatever reason, to let the competition go on, I strongly suspect they are letting the Clinton campaign know it’s time to be very careful about criticizing Obama. If he commits some grievous mistake, or if something politically damaging about him suddenly emerges, I don’t think HRC is going to be in a position to “pile on” as she did with Rev. Wright or the “bitter-gate” controversy. Democrats are worried about the general election, and while that worry is the last, best hope of the Clinton campaign, she can no longer risk feeding that mood directly.

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