The Democratic presidential race remains close after Tuesday's primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont. Looking ahead to seven more weeks of primaries, John Harris of Politico.com says a hotly contested race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is excellent news for the Democratic Party and the country.
How dramatic were Tuesday's contests? "I loved every minute of it," Harris says. "For political junkies, it's a dream come true. For Democrats, it's a mess."
First, take a look at what happened in Ohio, Harris says. The Buckeye State was always favorable terrain for Clinton. At one point a couple weeks ago, she led Obama by double digits. That's in part because of demographics that play to her base of blue-collar workers, women and Hispanics. By the eve of the contest, Obama had closed the gap and was breathing down her neck. Harris says the Clinton camp faced a tough reality: In every state where Obama has actively campaigned, he has won.
But not this time. What changed? Harris says that Clinton adopted a much more aggressive stance, running a TV ad that asked voters who they would want managing a national crisis and taking a hard tack in public appearances. Her mantra became "Obama's not ready, he's untested, you don't know him." Harris says, "Subtlety is for losers," and there was "nothing subtle" about the last two weeks of the Clinton campaign.
After winning Ohio, Harris says, Clinton's back in the game. "She can argue she's winning the big states Democrats need to win in the fall." But Obama's position in the delegate count remains strong. "It's a stunning, durable lead," Harris says.
Harris says Democrats are capable of having a tough fight and that the party will grow by doing what parties historically do — which is to hold contests and consider each of them important.
As for the prospect of the race dragging all the way to the Democratic National Convention in August, Harris says that would let people in later-voting states have a say. "Why have primaries if you're not going to let people vote until the end?" he asks.