Obama Makes His Case as He Surges
WASHINGTON — The lopsided nature of Senator Barack Obama’s parade of victories on Tuesday gives him an opening to make the case that Democratic voters have broken in his favor and that the party should coalesce around his candidacy.
Mr. Obama’s triumphs capped a week in which he went undefeated in states across the country, in many cases by big margins, over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
And his strength on Tuesday sliced across nearly every major demographic line, with one element standing out: in Virginia and Maryland, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls, he beat Mrs. Clinton among women.
The sheer consistency of Mr. Obama’s victories over the last few days certainly suggests that many Democratic voters have gotten past whatever reservations they might have had about his electability or his qualifications to be president.
Mr. Obama, in his victory speech in Madison, Wis., acted almost as the primaries were behind him, offering a case against the probable Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, as he spoke disparagingly of “Bush-McCain Republicans.” It amounted to a preview of what an Obama-McCain race might be like, and it reduced Mrs. Clinton, at least for one night, to the role of bystander.
“John McCain is an American hero,” Mr. Obama said before a huge, cheering crowd. “We honor his service to our nation. But his priorities don’t address the real problems of the American people, because they are bound to the failed policies of the past.”
Mr. McCain picked up the challenge. While not mentioning Mr. Obama by name, he offered an unmistakable put-down of the theme that has become so closely identified with Mr. Obama.
“To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope,” he said. “It is a platitude.”
To make sure no one had missed the message, Mr. McCain appropriated Mr. Obama’s signature line with a sly farewell to his own audience in Alexandria, Va. “My friends,” he said. “I promise you, I am fired up and ready to go.”
If I hear John McCain call anyone "My Friends," again I think I might pull my hair out I doubt seriously doubt that he has more than one or two friends in that audience last night. Does he not know what a friend is? A friend is not someone who comes to your rallies, votes for you or even works for you. Friendship is far more personal and intimate than that. When he does that it really bugs me for some reason. Maybe it's because I think it disingenuous and I just don't think this country can stand much more of that.
Even before his latest victories, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, had whittled away at the advantages amassed last year by Mrs. Clinton.
He now enjoys a big financial advantage. Her big lead in national polls is gone. By most counts, Mr. Obama can now claim more delegates pledged to him. He has won far more states than Mrs. Clinton, although she won some of the big prizes, like California and New Jersey.
For weeks, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama had approached this race the same way: as state-by-state trench warfare, in the belief that the nomination would go to whoever got the most delegates.
But the latest results suggest that the race might be tilting back to a more normal form, where the goal is achieving a series of splashing victories and thus momentum. That has provided Mr. Obama with the opportunity, which he plans to seize in a more full-throated way starting on Wednesday, to argue that voters across a wide cross-section of the country have embraced his candidacy, and that the time has come for the group that could hold the balance of power, those 796 unpledged superdelegates — party leaders and elected officials who have an automatic seat at the national convention — to follow suit.
“We are in a momentum phase of the process now,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic consultant.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers dispute that, noting that his victories have come in relatively small states and that she has invested most of her attention in two big contests coming up on March 4: Ohio and Texas. Her aides have long argued that by the end of the voting, the difference between the two candidates in delegate count would be minimal, leaving the final decision to superdelegates, who in their view would favor Mrs. Clinton.
But if party leaders begin to think this is no longer simply a mathematical race to the 2,025-delegate line, that could have big consequences for Mrs. Clinton.
For one thing, if this is an election where a candidate wins by virtue of being seen as winning — a definition of momentum — that would mean that voters in coming states would be influenced by the outcome of earlier races. And Mr. Obama might then be in a position to encroach on Mrs. Clinton’s firewall of Texas and Ohio.
Perhaps most problematically, the delegate selection process — in which delegates are allocated to the candidates in proportion to how many votes they win — could now begin to work against Mrs. Clinton. Both candidates get a share of the delegates, even if one wins by a margin of 20 points. That is a reason Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama had stayed so close on delegate numbers, and why it becomes harder for her to reclaim a lead.
But whatever challenges Mrs. Clinton faces, she has repeatedly proved to be a resourceful candidate with a sharp campaign organization and a passionate base of supporters. Should she win in Ohio and Texas, she could halt Mr. Obama’s claim to momentum and keep the race for pledged delegates from breaking against her. And there has been a history in this campaign of Mr. Obama winning, only to have Mrs. Clinton return and win.
“You can’t make a judgment until Ohio and Texas,” said Jonathan Prince, who was a senior adviser to John Edwards of North Carolina, who quit the race two weeks ago. “In this campaign, every time he has surged ahead, voters take a pause. If momentum keeps slamming into a wall, than you do have to come down to the numbers.”
Still, in the end, those two things are not unrelated. The next contest is Tuesday in Wisconsin, where some polls suggest that Mrs. Clinton is trailing, meaning it may be two weeks after that before she has a potential to put herself in a favorable light again.
At a time when Mr. Obama will be announcing that his train is leaving the station — and pointing to the relatively clear field that Mr. McCain has on the Republican side in urging Democrats to unite behind him — that could prove to be an awfully long two weeks for the Clinton campaign.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.