Sunday, January 27, 2008

Outta Carolina

Let's go to Jerome for some what-SC-means-going-forward insight (recall as you read the following that Florida, by virtue of having moved up its primary in defiance of the DNC, has lost its certification of delegates):

The Clintons seem to have seen this blowout coming, they yesterday released PR's announcing Bill Clinton would be Kansas City, and Hillary Clinton in Nashville (last night).

This now sets up a PR/expectations battle over Florida on Tuesday. After Obama went up on the air in a national buy in Florida, the Clintons seemed to have said off-the-record that the agreement (not to campaign there) was off, but on the record they remained committed to it. On Friday, they released this PR about Florida, saying a few things in it:

1. Clinton will ask that the FL & MI delegates be seated (though not exactly clarifying as to when/if their delegates are to be counted toward the nomination).

2. That Clinton will continue abiding to the pledge to not campaign in Florida.

3. That Clinton expects others will as well.

Obama got the huge victory and momentum that he wanted out of South Carolina. With a double-digit lead in the polls heading in, it was expected, but still -- it comes with momentum. What does he do with it, especially in regards to Florida?

He could either continue to ignore Florida, ask the press too as well, and hope that it doesn't matter. Or Obama could go long and head into Florida, breaking the pledge that it doesn't matter any longer (which #3 above is trying to head off).

Neither is that great of a choice for Obama. Ignoring it sets up a process story over the next three days that ends in Clinton's favor; and his campaigning in Florida the next three days is risky because he's been behind in the polls and it would up the stakes.

Everyone would bet that the Obama campaign has already made up its mind and will ignore Florida, like he did Michigan. I don't really see how that's a winning strategy for Obama. Florida is different, first because Obama is on the ballot in Florida, and second, because it's Florida. Obama has won SC by a 20-percent plus blowout, but Clinton will be able to reverse that claim in FL. And what matters more, FL or SC? In the first big state to have a primary, a week ahead of Feb 5th, Clinton will be seen as victor over Obama.

Update: Clinton reneges on her agreement to stay out of Florida. It's only a victory speech after polls are closed, but belies the sore loser/ ungracious winner behavior Mrs. Clinton is making a habit of. This is more of the Atwater/Rove style of politics we're accustomed to now. Look for more sliming of Obama next week.

Super Duper Tuesday is where Mrs. Clinton regains the upper hand. Unless the Obama tsunami has greater extension than I think. And it could, if Frank Rich is right:

(Now that Obama has won South Carolina) -- the party needs him to stop whining about the Clintons’ attacks, regain his wit and return to playing offense. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, he would unambiguously represent change in a race with any Republican. If he vanquishes Billary, he’ll have an even stronger argument to take into battle against a warrior like McCain.

And John Edwards salvaged a bit of good news out of his home state (which he won four years ago) with his 18% showing and a handful of delegates. This benchmark, repeated in every state from here on, solidifies the kingmaker strategy that is left to him.

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