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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 17:18 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 17:18 | SYDNEY

Hillary: It's over, almost

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COMMENTS

8 May 2008 08:43

In a speech to the Lowy Institute three weeks ago, I estimated that Senator Barack Obama had greater than an 80% chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president. After yesterday’s results out of North Carolina and Indiana, that number has shot up past the 95% mark. Obama has come back from a shocking couple of weeks to monster Senator Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and go close in Indiana; he has increased his lead in both the popular vote and the delegate count.

Hillary says she’s sticking around, but what credible argument can she put to superdelegates today about why they should defy the popular vote and back her, now that both maths and momentum are against her? How many contributors are going to inject more cash into her campaign at this stage? Not many, going by today’s news that she and her husband have been forced to lend an additional US$6 million to her campaign in the past month. A Clinton victory would now require multiple Jeremiah Wright-type scandals – and more importantly, it would require Obama to wilt under pressure in a way that he has not done to date.

Obama is a remarkably gifted young politician and he has run a far more effective campaign than Clinton, from a much lower base. His campaign has included a mix of top-down idealism and grassroots hardball politics that would make the NSW branch of the ALP proud. He has shown superior organisation; he has mobilized more people on the ground in primaries and caucuses; he has raised much more money and used new technologies more nimbly. The themes of his campaign have been consistent – much more so than Clinton. First Hillary was the inevitable candidate, then she was the change candidate; she was the strong candidate (the only one who passed the commander-in-chief test), then the vulnerable candidate, then the strong one again, then the vulnerable one again; first she was nice to Obama, then she was nasty to him, and so on.

Assuming Obama takes the nomination from here, I think he’s got a strong chance of beating Republican nominee Senator John McCain in November, as I argued in Wednesday’s Australian Financial Review. Democrats in Washington have been glum these past weeks, but it’s much too soon for them to empty their veins into the Potomac. The Democratic candidate will have several advantages, including the current mindset of the American electorate and some hitherto unrevealed chinks in McCain’s armour. McCain is a great candidate – the best the Republicans could have selected from within their ranks – but at this point I’d still prefer to be riding the Obama train.

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