Sweet column: Democrats don't know who they want.

SHARE Sweet column: Democrats don't know who they want.

Democrats just don’t know who they want to nominate for president.

The mixed results of Super Tuesday only mean that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) wake up today and look to the next round of contests Feb. 9 and beyond.

David Plouffe is the soft-spoken manager of Obama’s campaign who anticipated Tuesday afternoon that the primary and caucus votes in what amounted to the first national primary would be inconclusive.

Heading into later February and March states, “we’ll have time to spend in them,” Plouffe said. “We think we are better organized. We’re not dealing with a mammoth day.” Obama on Thursday heads to Louisiana and Nebraska and will likely travel and spend time in the other states as the fierce battle continues.

The trajectory, however, is promising for Obama for a few reasons. If the final results of Tuesday show essentially a draw — and as I write this there are no final delegate counts — then the Obama organization deserves applause for closing a lot of polling gaps with Clinton.

Obama also now has time on his side. He’s got money on his side. Obama pulled in $32 million in January to Clinton’s $13 million. The frantic coast-to-coast campaigning that has taken place since the end of January through Tuesday slows down. Obama does better in places where he can do retail, not wholesale, politics. Obama gets stronger over time. Clinton needs the election over.

Clinton, for her part, showed that being steady and focused can pay off over flash and dash. She won Massachusetts, not a surprise, since she had been polling better than Obama all along. But for all the firepower Obama had –both senators from the state, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, Gov. Deval Patrick (who grew up on Chicago’s South Side) and a lot of the Harvard establishment — Clinton prevailed with the backing of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a ward boss from the old school.

Tuesday’s 22-state voting showed a demographic divide. Obama, who speaks so often of his hardscrabble youth, draws votes from people with higher incomes and more education. Clinton, who grew up in Park Ridge in a comfortable suburban lifestyle, finds support from people with less money and schooling. Obama commands overwhelming support from African Americans, Clinton from Hispanics.

Gender gap narrows

Partial results from exit polls suggest Obama may be having some success on the gender front in getting more women on his side. The Democratic winner will be the one who figures how to bridge these divides without the backlash that comes from aggressive campaigning.

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, said, “Where just a month and a half ago we were essentially prohibitive underdogs in the race against the biggest brand name in Democratic politics, tonight we are going to fight her to at least a draw.”

Tuesday showed that there’s no top dog or underdog anymore.

Said Clinton, as the race goes on, “I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debates.”

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