No-mentum

Today is Potomac Primary Day and the polls indicate that Barack Obama should add Maryland, Virginia and DC to his win list, after sweeping Maine, Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington State over the weekend. Coming after the virtual tie on Super Tuesday, this would seem to give him strong momentum heading into March 4 when two big states, Texas and Ohio, join two little ones, Rhode Island and Vermont, in casting their ballots. But, this year, momentum seems to promise...defeat. Barack won Iowa, saw his poll numbers surge in New Hampshire, but Hillary held on and won by three points. With that wind at he back, she carried Nevada, only to be crushed the following weekend in South Carolina. Barack’s huge win in South Carolina helped him close the gap in many Super Tuesday states but he was unable to deliver a knockout punch. What is going on? Polls indicate that Democratic primary voters really like both candidates and yet both candidates do have huge question marks hanging over their campaigns. People have legitimate concerns if they know enough about Barack, if he has enough experience, if he has the savvy and the grit needed to survive in Washington. People worry if Hillary is not simply too jaded, or if her family psychodramas might not interrupt her campaign or her presidency or if she has a prayer against John McCain. So, as soon as one of them gets momentum and the spotlight comes to rest on them, these questions come to the fore, and the late-deciders break the other way. Or, maybe the voters just like them both so much, they don’t want to fire either of them. But, with the GOP nomination a done deal, the dynamics need to change if the Democrats are to avoid a deadlocked convention. Barack’s impressive February wins may translate into a perceived need for Hillary to crush him in Ohio and Texas. She appears to be the odds-on favorite in both states, but to win, not to crush. What the party desperately needs is a knockout punch from somebody. The worst scenario, yet a completely plausible one, has Barack winning more states and more pledged delegates and Hillary getting a larger share of the popular vote and more superdelegates. Both could advance legitimate claims to the nomination. And, in what is shaping up to be a good year for the Democrats, no one is going to gently step aside for the good of the party. This could get ugly unless someone develops momentum, and keeps it. Michael Sean Winters
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