If we've learned nothing else from the Democrats' intramural winter squabbles (now officially spreading into spring) it's that everyone agrees that voters have a sacred right to be heard -- so long as they're likely to help the candidate any particular Democrat happens to support.
Thus the spectacle that dominates the race between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton has:
- Obama wanting the will of the voters to carry the day -- but not for the voters of Michigan and Florida to be included.
- Clinton demanding that the voters of Michigan and Florida be heard -- but insisting that party insiders be free to overturn the voters' collective judgment.
- The Democratic National Committee utterly and entirely powerless to do anything about the mess -- appearing to be neither democratic (lowercase d), national (in influence), nor a committee (per dictionary.com, "a person or group of persons elected or appointed to perform some service or function").
The actions are supremely self-interested, if all within the rules, but they leave us with an undeniable truth: As Michigan's door closes on Thursday, like Florida's before it, the up-shot is this: Obama, D-Ill., is the prohibitive favorite to capture the Democratic nomination. His delegate edge stands at 128, per ABC's scorecard, and two fewer big states mean two fewer big chances for Clinton, D-N.Y., to make up the gap.
"We're on the outskirts of over," ABC contributor Matthew Dowd said on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.
And yet: "It's the superdelegates, we think, who are going to decide this," ABC's Sam Donaldson said. "They're going to look at electability, and in that case, I think Sen. Obama is going to have some weaknesses."
Clinton has practically no margin for error left, and three big things have to go her way, per The New York Times' Adam Nagourney. It starts with a victory in Pennsylvania (looking good) and using the remaining contests to pull ahead in the popular vote (not as likely, but possible).
Then comes the hard part: "Mrs. Clinton is looking for some development to shake confidence in Mr. Obama so that superdelegates, Democratic Party leaders and elected officials who are free to decide which candidate to support overturn his lead among the pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses," Nagourney writes. "For Mrs. Clinton, all this has seemed something of a long shot since her defeats in February. But that shot seems to have grown a little longer."
The Obama campaign knows the superdelegates are watching: "The nomination standoff has made the results in Michigan and Florida potentially scale-tipping," Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post. "Obama supporters among the superdelegates who are likely to ultimately decide the nomination, conceded they still fear a late winning streak by Clinton."
They continue: "A big win in Pennsylvania on April 22, followed by victories in Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico, could change superdelegate thinking on which candidate is more electable. Clinton victories in Florida and Michigan revotes would make matters worse for Obama."