Summing It Up

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Before we give way to the night, let me try to pull together some rough thoughts on what happened here tonight. It’s probably best to start with the indisputable facts. I haven’t had a chance to look at the popular vote. But every estimate I’ve seen says this was close to an exact tie in delegates. And adding those delegates won today, to all those won in the earlier contests and all the pledged super delegates, Hillary, I believe I heard was above by about 50.

If you look at this from the vantage point of two weeks ago, it’s a huge win for Obama, since he was trailing in states across the country by a very big margin. From the vantage point of the last couple days, however, it’s much less clear. The hype of his momentum just got a bit out ahead of what he was able to pull off. And in that sense there’s a very mild echo of New Hampshire, though the Clinton campaign is silly to claim some sort of comeback. There were a handful of states which, had he won two or more of them, would have taken him from a delegate tie to a decisive win that would have seen Clinton seriously on the defensive. But it didn’t happen. Not in New Jersey or Massachusetts and most importantly not in California, which Clinton won decisively.

But I think all these competing scenarios make one point clear. The only arguments for one side or the other being a winner here come down to airy and finally meaningless arguments about expectations. And the result tells a different tale. It’s about delegates. It’s dead even. You’ve got two well-funded candidates who’ve demonstrated an ability to power back from defeats. And neither is going anywhere.

The flip side of the proportional representation in delegates is that not only does it allow a challenger like Obama not to get put away early, it also makes it difficult to put away an opponent late. The conventional wisdom is that Obama will do well in this weekend’s and next Tuesday’s contests. But if he does, proportionality will reign there too. It’s hard to see where this doesn’t go all the way to the convention.

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