AUSTIN, Texas — Sen. Barack Obama is on a trajectory to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Obama has gained too much ground in recent days for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to overtake him, short of a major gaffe. Obama and Clinton meet tonight for their second one-on-one debate here sponsored by the Texas Democratic Party, Univision and CNN.
On Wednesday, Obama picked up the endorsement of the Teamsters Union, delivered personally by President Jim Hoffa, and today is expected to be backed by the politically influential Change to Win labor federation.
The political math is such that Clinton would need to claim super-sized wins in the March 4 elections in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island in order to keep pace with Obama with the accumulation of pledged delegates.
Clinton told the NBC affiliate in El Paso, “We’ve won some and we’ve lost some and the race is still essentially tied.” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe disputed that assessment. “That’s just lunacy,” he said during a conference call. … They are going to have to win landslides from here on out to erase it.”
The problem for Clinton is that if the remaining contests are close, the delegate allocation is about split. She would have to win by almost two-to-one margins in the mega-states ahead in order to yield significant gains, Plouffe said. According to an AP tally — the numbers from the campaigns vary — Obama has 1,178 delegates to 1,024 for Clinton. It takes 2,025 to clinch, and some 1,024 delegates remain up in the air.
The AP count has Clinton ahead with superdelegates, 238 to 173. Her only hope is to lock in undecided superdelegates, and her ability to do so has been eroded by Obama’s string of wins and pressure from his campaign.
Clinton has some tough choices: if she goes negative on Obama, which she has been willing to do, it may backfire. Clinton has been arguing that Obama’s inspirational stemwinders are “speeches” and not “solutions. Obama, drawing 17,000 Wednesday afternoon at Dallas’ Reunion Arena, said, “contrary to what she’s been saying, it’s not a choice between speeches and solutions. It’s a choice between a politics that offers more of the same divisions and distractions. That didn’t work in South Carolina, that didn’t work in Wisconsin and it will not work in Texas.”