And so voters in yet another primary state that Hillary Clinton never took seriously enough in her march to inevitability have added more fuel to Barack Obama's improbable quest, putting her a step closer to possible electoral oblivion.
Another chapter was writ large in the extraordinary saga of the firestorm versus the firewall last night as Obama beat
Clintonby a 58 to 41 percent margin in for his ninth straight win. To put Wisconsin 's loss in stark relief, there was nothing positive in her showing and she did almost as poorly as Mike Huckabee in his lopsided loss to John McCain in a state that she had been expected to win. Clinton
Obama also easily won the
caucuses after a record turnout to increase his overall lead in convention delegates and the primary popular vote. Hawaii
Wisconsinand a big chunk of its 74 delegates should be a mere bump in the road for . But she now finds herself having to decisively win her firewall state primaries -- Clinton Texasand Ohioon March 4 and on April 22 -- or her coronation may be on hold indefinitely. Pennsylvania
A few days ago,
Clintonseemed to have in the bag. Wisconsin
, she Virginia had a comfortable lead in the polls in a state tailor made for her with its large white working-class electorate. But also like Virginia, had an open primary which resulted in the seemingly unstoppable Obama not only siphoning off Democrats, but drawing in Independents and Republicans, as well. Wisconsin
Exit polls in
Wisconsinshowed that virtually every demographic group is trending toward Obama.
He continued to cut into
's core constituencies -- women and low- and middle-income voters, with voters from union households evenly splitting their votes between the two. Only Catholics and voters with only a high school education gave Clinton the edge, while voters said by a 63 to 37 percent margin that Obama would be more likely to defeat the Republican nominee in the fall. Clinton
A CNN exit poll found that the economy was the greatest concern of 44 percent of voters, followed by the
war (28 percent) and health care (26 percent). Iraq
As it turned out, Obama already was campaigning in
on the night of his big Potomac Primaries sweep of Wisconsin , Virginia and the Maryland , while District of Columbia was in Clinton . Texas did campaign in Clinton , but Wisconsin she seemed to concede it as she had Virginiaby spending more time in Texasand . The later state resembles Wisconsin in many ways but is more racially diverse, a big plus for Obama. Ohio
Which begs the question of the hour if not the campaign: Having realized however belatedly that her strategy of running as Ms. Inevitable and wrapping up the nomination early while thumbing her nose at states with comparatively few delegates was a disaster, why has she continued to blunder so consistently and so badly?
Why, for example, does
Clintonnot even have a full slate of delegates for the primary even through her helpmate, Governor Ed Rendell, ordered a special extension of the deadline in a state that is shaping up to be enormously important to her survival? Pennsylvania
Why does she continue to spin every setback as if it was only a matter of demographics, timing, money or plagarism?
Why does she continue to flip-flop on superdelegates and now, in a poke to the electoral eye, reportedly will go after Obama's pledged delegates?
The answer is that Clinton and her staff, even after a major shakeup, have yet to shed the feeling that she is The Chosen One and their hubris has drowned out the alarm bells that have been ringing so insistently since Obama caught the wind in the run-up to Super Tuesday. The
campaign never had a Plan B and it's getting awfully late in the day to cobble one together. Clinton
Of two things we can be sure:
* A trending Obama can rightfully claim that he has national appeal after winning a northern swing state like Wisconsin, a bellweather Midwestern state like Missouri, a hardcore Democratic state like Maryland and a red state like Virginia based on his strength among independents, the key bloc in any presidential election.
* A desperate
will need to ride the wave of mainstream media stories delving into every nook and cranny of Obama's past and present and hope that reporters find more than crumbs, hope that McCain turns his guns in Obama and not her, or that Obama makes an enormous gaffe in a coming debate. Clinton
But with every negative ad and negative comment from
and her surrogates, every effort to rig the nominating process to give her an edge, every murky statement that the campaign will be clear about its intentions, she widens the perceptual gulf that Obama represents the fresh and new while she represents the tired and old. ClintonAmerican Debate, Captain's Quarters, CNN, The Guardian,
The New York Times, The Washington Post and Matthew Yglesias
contributed to this report. Photograph by The Associated Press