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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Groundhog days

With Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote victories in Ohio and Texas, the senator from New York can invoke that old Mark Twain adage about death reports being greatly exaggerated. For now anyway. “We’ve just seen the political equivalent of Groundhog [Day],” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said Wednesday. “We have seven more weeks of the primary season.”

The Clinton campaign will play this as a return to form, a shift in the momentum of the race for the Democratic nomination, a race set to continue “into primaries as yet unborn,” Olbermann said. Whether it really is or not is an open question; Sen. Barack Obama still bests her in delegate count, popular vote and number of states’ contests.

And Obama’s wins in the Texas caucuses — part of that state’s two-headed “primacaucus” apparatus of primary and caucus voting — already cast doubt on just how much Clinton won by, or whether she won at all. Look for the Clinton attack machine to restart as the primary season heads for Pennsylvania, the next big delegate prize.

Some are already concerned about the risk of an ugly brokered convention, with gridlock on the convention floor and deals being cut in the storied smoke-filled room (figuratively anyway, since no-smoking laws will surely be enforced in Denver). The spectre of the 1968 and 1972 Dem conventions is keeping party insiders awake at night. Brian Jones, a University of Washington political professor, took note. “We know from past studies there’s a few things that predict losses in a general election, one of which is a divisive primary [season],” Joes told KIRO-TV in Seattle.

It may not come to that. The Wyoming caucuses, set for Saturday, and the Mississippi primary on Tuesday are widely thought to be probable wins for Obama, and will pad his delegate lead even more. There's no doubt the faint hope that the slow evaporation of Clinton’s prospects leads to her campaign’s graceful exit. Pigs, or groundhogs, are more likely to take wing.
Image credit: Groundhog: Public domain

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