Election 2008

Can Obama Beat the Clock?

Barack Obama has only one competitor left standing and it's not Hillary Clinton. It's time itself.
Barack Obama has only one enemy left standing and it's not Hillary Clinton. It's time itself. All the evidence is in: the more that voters are exposed to Obama, the more they flock to him. The more they see Hillary Clinton, the more stagnant her numbers.

If the election were held last Tuesday, Clinton would have walked away with it. If it were to be held a week from this Tuesday, Obama would waltz to victory.

The latest surveys reveal an unmistakable and unprecedented surge by Obama, nationally and in almost every key state on this Tuesday's calendar of 22 primaries.
And one key survey even has him ahead in the gold-ring state of California where, a month ago, he was down by 20 points.

Obama's rise over this past week in the Golden State has been breathtaking. The state has rippled with the energy unleashed by the endorsement handed him by Teddy Kennedy and then follow-up with a one-two punch endorsement from the L.A. Times and the country's largest Spanish-language newspaper, La Opinion. Then along comes Oprah again to rock Sunday's pro-Obama rally at UCLA. Better said, a foreshock. Because the real rattler was the surprise endorsement by Maria Shriver, the wife of the sitting Republican Governor of California. Did I already say breathtaking.

Meanwhile, this Sunday morning while Bill Clinton was campaigning in a handful of black churches in South Central Los Angeles, the Obama ground crew was seen blanketing a much wider array of churches in the area. There were no TV cameras or packs of reporters -- just hard-working canvassers trying to capture support voter-by-voter.

What Obama's late surge tell us is crystal clear. He did the same in every early voting-state, slowly but surely eroding or overcoming the early, wide lead held by Clinton. In each case, she started out miles ahead and in each case Obama closed the gap. Conclusion: Hillary's strength is hollow. Based on stratospheric name recognition, institutional support, and celebrity she starts out with a natural advantage. But as voters get familiar with Obama, as they hear his call for change and change-over, as they watch the Clinton campaign resort to the worst sort of old-style politicking (most recently Hillary suggesting that voting for Obama would be akin to voting for Bush), the momentum builds in the opposite direction.

With just less than a day to go, the question is if Obama can beat the clock. Can he actually win California and the bulk of delegates this Tuesday to stage one of the greatest upsets in modern political history? Can he at least win enough delegates to stay alive and surpass Clinton next month in the Ohio and Texas primaries?

Conversely, a Clinton win this week, produced merely by the absurd acceleration of the primary calendar, would leave the Democrats with what might be called a Twilight Zone candidate -- a nominee who the party rejected but the calendar saved.
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