Analysis: Clinton Lacks Clear Path to Victory The Democratic presidential rivals split primary contests Tuesday, but editor John Harris says without an emphatic win in Indiana, there is no sound logic for Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign to continue.
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Analysis: Clinton Lacks Clear Path to Victory

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Analysis: Clinton Lacks Clear Path to Victory

Analysis: Clinton Lacks Clear Path to Victory

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So, as you heard there a big win for Barack Obama, a smaller win for Hillary Clinton. Does this mean Mrs. Clinton has a big decision to make? Well, let's ask John Harris. He's the editor in chief of Hi, John.

Mr. JOHN HARRIS (Editor in Chief, Hey, good morning.

PESCA: So, I read through the papers today. Some people still do that dead-tree media, and lots of quotes from the unnamed Clinton aide. I think we've seen this unnamed Clinton aide before, maybe his cousin, and in the past, he's saying things like, you know, we will have to assess if we are going on. He's saying similar things now. I don't know who this Clinton aide is or are.

Mr. HARRIS: I wonder. This could be a good parlor game. I bet I've met him or her.

PESCA: Yeah. Well, do you think it's real? Is Team Clinton really pondering their future?

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah, they have to, because the problem is other people are pondering her future. To some extent, the media is clearly driving this narrative, and I think people think there's not a clear logic or rationale for her candidacy, given this pretty weak showing last night. Even more important than the media is the superdelegate.

At this point, there's not so many of them that are still uncommitted or undeclared. You can almost go down and list them pretty easily by name, couple hundred or less, and what is she saying to those people? And what are they saying to her in terms of look, keep this candidacy alive or no, really, look, you don't have a chance, and you are hurting the party? Yeah, it was not a great night for Senator Clinton.

PESCA: Yeah, and here's how she is framing the race thus far.

(Soundbite of speech)

Senator HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (Democrat, New York): People are watching this race and they're wondering, I win, he wins, I win, he wins. It's so close.

PESCA: You know, in last night's Mets-Dodgers game, the Mets won some innings, the Dodgers won some innings, so who could really - so who won? Except for the fact that the Dodgers...

Mr. HARRIS: We don't vote at the end. There's an actual result, or we keep playing.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. HARRIS: You know, this is just a - run with your baseball metaphor there, this game already did go into extra innings, and it now looks very much like Senator Obama has emerged ahead, maybe two outs, we are waiting for the third.

PESCA: Now, I've read in a very notable publication called Politico, is...

Mr. HARRIS: I love it! I read it every day!

PESCA: Last month, you guys were saying this whole idea that Hillary Clinton can win the delegate vote, and really, that she could win over the superdelegates, this whole idea is a fiction. You were saying that awhile ago.

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah, it's been almost two months ago at this point.

PESCA: Two months ago, and I guess you have been feeling more and more confident as results come in?

Mr. HARRIS: Well, right, and what that story made clear is that mathematically it was very hard to, and has been for some time, to see a path to the nomination for her. So, for all these last couple of months it's been - Senator Clinton's hopes have rested not on math but on perceptions, and seeing if she could get some people, specifically superdelegates, to somehow rethink this contest, and with results like last night, there's just nothing in her arsenal that says, hey, you need to stop, don't pay attention to math, think about something else, and rethink.

PESCA: And, does it totally erase the Pennsylvania win? I mean, she won in Pennsylvania. She won in Indiana.

Mr. HARRIS: No question. Yeah, she won barely in Indiana when I think she really needed a more emphatic victory. She did get an emphatic victory in Pennsylvania, and that was what people said, OK, let's watch what happens next. He won an even more emphatic victory in North Carolina, which basically reversed any delegate gains that she won in Pennsylvania. So, it's not like she's gotten blown out in this contest.

It's very close, but the fundamental logic of the race has stayed the same. He's ahead, and what's more, he's ahead on the strength of support, overwhelming support, from the Democratic Party's most loyal, most-committed constituency, and what she's asking superdelegates to do is, well, look, he's ahead, but I'm close behind, and I want you to give the nomination from me. Superdelegates are not going to risk offending African Americans, offending young and other constituencies that have come out strong for Obama by doing that.

PESCA: Right, and here is - it's not you just saying it. Other men, maybe even men who have a slightly larger role in setting the conventional wisdom, guys like Tim Russert, are saying similar things.

Mr. HARRIS: I defer to him. I more than defer. I genuflect.

PESCA: Well, let's hear what Tim is saying.

(Soundbite of TV show "Meet the Press")

Mr. TIM RUSSERT (Host, "Meet the Press"): She's going to have to say to the superdelegates, despite all these mathematics difficulties, listen to me. I'm tougher and I'm better. Tonight, that's not the case.

PESCA: OK. Here's the thing. In terms of the actual - you're talking about the math. He's talking about the math. The math was always the same. It was going to be all-but-impossible for her to win math-wise. It was always going to be a subjective argument with the superdelegates.

And when the whole Reverend Wright thing was going, and the Pennsylvania win was happening, I guess some people were saying, well, subjectively, maybe the superdelegates will say, sure, I'll go with her. And so, what you're saying is that these wins, which reverse that trend, it just makes the subjective argument that much harder to make.

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah, exactly. She was resting on a sort of change in psychology, and I just don't think that is happening. I will say it's a pet peeve of mine. I don't want to be guilty of it myself. I do not think it's the role of the media to relive that show from the '70s, the "Gong Show."

PESCA: Yeah, you're not there to drum the people out.

Mr. HARRIS: Hoot and hollering them off stage. She can and, I think it's entirely possible, will, stay in the race through June 3rd, the end of the primary season, maybe through the end of the convention. But I do think as we weigh the prospects of what's realistic, we definitely took a big handful of peas, not just a single pea or two, and moved it to one side of the scale to the other.

PESCA: I got it. If she's running you'll cover her, but you'll also supply the context. Let's talk a little bit about, why do you think Obama was able to win so convincingly? Better than all but the most positive poll said he was going to in North Carolina. His people say his stance on the gas holiday played really well, where Hillary Clinton said let's eliminate federal taxes, and he says this is political pandering. He says that if you look at the results, the people liked his argument better, that it was political pandering. You buy that?

Mr. HARRIS: I haven't seen polling to support that, but I think the exit polling does make clear that her position didn't do her any good. Whether it actually turned off people and said, oh, you know, Obama's right, this is just a cheap, demagogic proposal, and I'm really mad at Hillary Clinton for making it, I know that certainly was the view among a lot of economists and other elite - whether average voters were offended and voted for Obama because she said that, I don't know.

PESCA: And Reverend Wright, which hung over these weeks of campaigning, do the results in Indiana, a close second place, second place - there were two guys in the race - does coming close in Indiana or winning big in North Carolina put to rest any of the question mark regarding Reverend Wright?

Mr. HARRIS: Well, it seems to put it to rest in the Democratic context, and that means that there's going to be a big question mark over Senator Obama now that he is, you know, all but certain the nominee in the fall to go up against Senator McCain. We know that Democrats are satisfied with his answers. What we don't know is whether general-election voters are satisfied with his answers. I can virtually guarantee you we have not heard the last of Revered Wright in this 2008 campaign season.

PESCA: The gift that keeps on giving for political observers.

Mr. HARRIS: Right, and it's unclear yet whether it's going to be one that gives - that keeps on giving to Republicans.

PESCA: Yup. John Harris, editor in chief of Thanks, John.

Mr. HARRIS: Sure, enjoyed it. See you.

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