Voters in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday could send Sen. Barack Obama's winning streak to 10 contests, as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton scrambles to slow Obama's momentum in their increasingly bitter contest for the Democratic nomination.
But the storyline of Obama's march to the nomination gets a late revision (authorship unknown). The Clinton campaign didn't write off Wisconsin after all, and no arguments over superdelegates, debates, or even plagiarism have quite the same impact as actually pulling out a win (in this game -- the less expected, the better).
Wisconsin awards 74 delegates, Hawaii 20. In the more closely watched Badger State, polls close at 9 pm ET, and an open primary and same-day registration provide some helpful Obama factors on a bitter, snowy day across much of the state. The weather's nowhere near as bad as it was over the weekend, and turnout shouldn't be too badly impacted.
Polls show Obama with a slight Wisconsin edge coming into the day, yet even the nasty weather has worked in Clinton's favor, forcing her to spend more time campaigning in the state.
Rather than the next sign of a flailing campaign, a Clinton comeback (take three?) could be born in the snows of Wisconsin; staying close could be enough for her to declare victory -- and at least slow the delegate slide that's building Obama an edge (73 and counting, per ABC's delegate scorecard).
"Earlier [Clinton aides] said they would make their stand against Obama in Ohio and Texas, rather than Wisconsin. But in the past few days they have increased their advertising and, in part because of the impact of Sunday's bad weather on the candidates' schedules, will end up spending more time in the state in the final 48 hours than Obama," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post.
"There is every reason, absent powerful momentum for Obama after last weeks' big victories in Maryland, Virginia and the District, to see Wisconsin as competitive. Both campaigns argue that the state should be favorable to the other side."
"She needs a solid showing in Wisconsin, even if she loses, to stem the impression of a candidacy in decline," John Harwood writes in The New York Times. "A rout in a state with Clinton-friendly demographics -- low black vote, substantial blue-collar vote -- would deflate supporters and donors for her March 4 turnaround bid in nearby Ohio."
"Voters have confounded the pollsters, and in Wisconsin, which has an open primary and same-day registration, the outcome could be even harder to peg," Greg J. Borowski writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"State election officials expect turnout to be about 35% of the voting-age population, which would rank Wisconsin near the top of states that have voted."
In the pre-contest spin, the Obama campaign wants everyone to know that Clinton isn't looking only to Texas and Ohio: Wisconsin will go down as the state that launched the campaign TV ad attacks and counter-attacks. "They're contesting it ferociously," says Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
Hawaii's caucuses won't start until 11 pm ET, with results likely to flow in into the wee hours of Wednesday. If there was any doubt, the weather strongly suggests that you'd rather be in Honolulu than in Madison.