The Story indeed remained intact after the Ohio and Texas primary. The Story remained intact after the Pennsylvania primary. Last night, in North Carolina and Indiana, The Story turned into Humpty Dumpty, and came tumbling down. Although she finished with a narrow victory in Indiana, her momentum was broken, and more importantly, the popular vote plurality is now out of reach. Obama's big popular vote victory in North Carolina, combined with her razor thin margin of victory in Indiana, means that the Michigan and Florida totals no longer matter.
"As long as she wins the popular vote The Story stays intact. The Story is all that matters to her campaign now. The Story that Clinton wins all the big states except Illinois. The Story that momentum has shifted. The Story that Hillary Clinton is the new "comeback kid". That story is all that is needed to provide political cover for the superdelegates to vote for Clinton at the convention. Even a 200 elected delegate lead for Obama is the equivalent of a dead even tie, as long as The Story is intact."
Even if Clinton includes Michigan and Florida in her totals, Obama will finish with a popular vote plurality. The Obama campaign can now be magnanimous, agree to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations, count the votes, and it still does not matter. With no momentum and no popular vote plurality, there is no story. With no story, there is nothing to keep the superdelegates from declaring for Obama. Humpty Dumpty is not getting put back together.
In that same February post, we quoted Mary Matlin on Meet the Press with this refinement to the The Story:
"If she wins both states, even fractionally, she can say he [Obama] can't close the deal." - Mary MatlinHe didn't close the deal in Ohio, Texas, and the media began asking the same question first posed by Mary Matlin. He didn't close the deal in Pennsylvania despite outspending Clinton three to one, and more questions were asked. Last night, Obama closed the deal. No more questions. We have a presumptive Democratic Party nominee.
A few additional thoughts on last night's results ...
- Despite the fact that the leaked Feb 5th Obama campaign strategy memo said that Obama expected to win Indiana by 7 points, and despite the fact that Obama called Indiana a "tiebreaker" two weeks ago, the Clinton campaign badly mismanaged the “expectation” game. Hillary herself must take much of the blame with her “game-changer” comment last Friday.
- In the same MTP show with Mary Matlin, Mike Murphy explained an interesting Clinton campaign phenomena:
"She's got one thing working for her, that is the near death experience phenomena this year - every time it looks like the perils of Pauline., the trains coming, she has a rescue." - Mike Murphy
In Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania the Clintons explicitly stated that if they did not win, the race was over. The voters chose to continue the contest. In Indiana and North Carolina, Clinton told the voters that they could "change the game" and give her the nomination. The voters chose to end the contest in Obama's favor.
- Finally, we learned that in 2008, Rush Limbaugh using his radio pulpit to rally his audience in support any Presidential candidate, whether Republican or Democrat, is the kiss of death. He called for his "dittoheads" to support Romney over McCain, and failed. Strike one. He called for his "dittoheads" to vote for Clinton over Obama to extend the nomination process, and failed. Strike two.
McCain can only hope and pray that that Rush Limbaugh keeps his word that he will support the Democratic nominee over McCain in the general election.