Friday, May 09, 2008

When A Win Becomes A Loss

Last month, as attention first turned to the Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana primaries after Clinton beat Obama in Texas and Ohio, Barack Obama declared the Indiana primary as the "tie-breaker" in the Democratic presidential race. There was plenty of reason for the Obama people to believe they were going to win Indiana. As one reporter described it at the time:

But there is a big difference from Ohio and Pennsylvania. Indiana borders Obama's home state and stronghold, Illinois. Many of the residents in Indiana's north-west corner work in Chicago. They watch Chicago television and know Obama well. The area has a big predominantly African-American population, which is likely to vote for Obama, and the smaller remnants of Poles, Latvians and other early immigrant groups, who are likely to go for Clinton. Even in the conservative southern part of the state, residents are exposed daily to the Chicago media, which is generally favourable to Obama.

By the end of last month, Obama changed his tune and decided Indiana wasn't a tie-breaker any more after most polls showed Clinton with a steady lead in the Hoosier state. In the end, Clinton won the state 51%-49%. The edge Obama was reported to have in Northwest Indiana didn't prove to be all that it was cracked up to be. But as it has been throughout this campaign, Obama dictates to the media how everything should be perceived and the media follows suit. Hence, Clinton's win in Indiana wasn't big enough to be considered a victory because Obama said so. The Star's Matt Tully bucks the pack reporting mentality somewhat in his column today and puts the win in perspective, albeit to defend Evan Bayh:

The reaction has been muted because the win generally is seen as not convincing enough. Bayh, however, argued that the political world should remember Clinton came to Indiana as the underdog.

"We were frankly kind of concerned when she took her first poll eight weeks ago she was behind by eight points," he said. "She was actually able to move the numbers 10 points in her direction. That's a pretty good day's work." It's also an indication that Evan Bayh is a pretty good guy to have by your side if you're running for president in Indiana.

Naturally, many Democratic leaders and media pundits are trying to call the game before it's over because they know how bad of a drubbing Obama could possibly take in upcoming primaries in West Virginia and Kentucky. I understand the mathematics of the delegate situation, but the fact remains it is extremely close from a historical perspective. Clinton has more reason to take her fight to the convention than Sen. Ted Kennedy did in his unsuccessful race against President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Clinton's situation is similar to Ronald Reagan's in 1976. The Ford people didn't like the battle to the end, but it ultimately made Gerald Ford a much stronger candidate after the contested convention win. Yes, he still lost, but he made the first presidential race after the Watergate scandal extremely close and despite the fact that he pardoned the man at the center of the scandal.


Anonymous said...

Ford was an incumbent in 1976 just as Carter was 1980.
So the point is........?

Anonymous said...

Its not that he "changed his tune," its the fact that the math just worked out better in his favor than he tought. The Obama machine is going to steamroll over the GOP.

IndyPaul said...

The race has been over since the Wisconsin primary. The press was having to much fun to say so.

Neither Ford in '76 or Carter in '80 had enough delegates to clinch the nomination before the convention. Obama will clinch a majority of pledged delegates, and total delegates shortly thereafter.

legaldiva said... you missed Obama's congratulations to Clinton even before Lake County's votes were calculated? Obama's camp hasn't spun anything. The news media began spinning that before anyone even knew the result. Even Clinton's camp realized they needed a big win.

I realize that you would like Clinton to receive the nod, but the reality is that Obama has the most votes and delegates. It may be a small lead, but it is the lead. Some people are going to be disappointed either way, but in the end the party will unite. We'll unite quicker if the dems stop listening to the hoohaa the repubs keep screaming.