From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Obama goes 10-0: The best way to end two days of tough press coverage? You go out and win a contested state -- and a general election battleground, to boot -- by 17 points. That's exactly what Obama did in Wisconsin yesterday, and when you add his victory late last night in Hawaii, he's now an eye-popping 10-0 since February 5. What's more, every single win after Super Tuesday has been in the double digits, the narrowest margin being last night's 17-point win. Yes, Obama outspent Clinton in Wisconsin. Yes, he campaigned in the state longer than she did. And, yes, Madison is full of potential Obama base supporters: college students and highly educated adults. But demographically, Wisconsin was a perfect place for Clinton to stop Obama's momentum. And she tried with negative TV ads (hitting Obama on health care, Social Security, and not participating in debates), mailings (slamming him on health care and his "present" votes), and a well-timed oppo hit (on Obama lifting lines from Deval Patrick's speeches). And still, per the exit polls, Obama won among those who decided on Election Day (though it was closer), as well as in the last three days. There's an argument that some in the Clinton campaign can make that the negative stuff was just starting to work. Then again, it was a 17-point win...
*** Is it panic time yet? Losing as badly as she did in Wisconsin really puts Clinton's campaign in as precarious of a position as it has ever been. The likelihood she can beat Obama as badly as she needs to in any remaining state -- let alone Ohio and Texas -- is very remote at this point. She no longer controls her own destiny, but now has to hope for an unforced error by Obama. And a big one. The good news for Clinton, the next six days provide two opportunities for unforced errors: debates. But how negative can Clinton go at this point? According to NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Newsweek's Howard Fineman, there's a divide inside the campaign about how negative to go. On one side is Mark Penn, who is ready to go all out (and who comes from the Bill Clinton school that there is no tomorrow, fight today); on the other is Mandy Grunwald and Howard Wolfson, who are worried about Clinton's legacy. After all, there has to be a point where Clinton says to herself, "there might be a next time." Isn't it possible Obama blows this as the nominee? And if so, who's going to be asked to pick up the pieces in 2009?
*** It's the campaign, stupid…: Time and again, we hear anecdotes of how the Obama campaign has more staff here or more money there. This, of course, was a luxury Obama had versus Clinton. The Obama campaign knew they weren't going to win quickly, and so they prepared for the long campaign -- the delegate fight. The Clinton campaign has been surprisingly unprepared for the long haul. Remember when Clinton herself said the contest would be over February 5? This is the only way to explain the consistent caucus beat-down they take and the lack of preparation for Wisconsin. It's the Obama campaign that's doing the little things tactically. At some point, one has to wonder if Obama will start using the organizational success he's had in this campaign as a talking point about his own preparation to run the White House. After all, this is the largest organization either Clinton or Obama has run.
*** A troubling sign for Ohio? Clinton won just a few demographics in Wisconsin last night, including among white women (52%-47%) and those over 60 (54%-45%). But one group she lost, per NBC's AnaMaria Arumi, was among whites making less than $50,000 (50%-48%). What's significant for Obama is that -- outside of Utah and his home state of Illinois -- last night's contest was his best score with that subgroup. Among all of those making under $50,000, Obama beat Clinton, 54%-44%; among those making more than $50,000, he won, 60%-39%. Clinton is targeting blue-collar workers, but has the wormed turned here, too?
VIDEO: After losing the Wisconsin primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., tells voters that the new president should rely on 'hard work to get America back to work'. 'The question isn't whether we can,' says Clinton, 'but whether we will.'
*** The Delegate math: After last night's contests, here's where things stand: The NBC News Hard Count is Obama 1,168, Clinton 1,018. There are 53 delegates unallocated, including 19 in MD, 10 each in CO and GA, 6 in WI, 4 in HI, and one each in DC, TN, NY and IL. We estimate a conservative 27-26 split here. The Superdelegate Count: Clinton 257 versus Obama 185. That's a grand total of: Obama 1,355, Clinton 1,276. Counting only the superdelegates he has now, plus his pledged delegates, Obama needs 65% of remaining PLEDGED delegates to hit the magic 2025 number. Reaching that is probably unrealistic, but when you add in the unaffiliated 353 superdelegates (76 of whom are not yet known yet and won't be appointed until April, May and June), his magic percentage number is down to 48%. On the flip side, Clinton needs to win 58% of all remaining pledged delegates simply to get the pledged delegate lead back. Forget 2025. And if you assume Obama wins Vermont, Wyoming, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota, then the magic percentage number in the states Clinton wins rises to 65% -- SIMPLY TO GET THE PLEDGED DELEGATE LEAD BACK...
*** The way to win? The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, has unveiled its own Delegate Hub, a Web site listing "facts and myths" about the Democratic race for delegates. What's most interesting here is that the campaign moves the 2025 magic number to include Florida and Michigan (thus 2208). And as Harold Ickes tried on Saturday, they want to erase the pledged vs. super distinction. This is the clearest signal yet that the Clinton campaign knows they can't win as things stand now and need to win this on the perception front.
*** Compare and contrast: Lost in the attention of last night's Democratic contest in Wisconsin was McCain's own win in the Badger State, as well as in Washington. However, McCain should be thankful there won't be many more back-to-back Election Night speeches, in which TV viewers can compare the speeches and the audiences. In fact, fast forward to the conventions and ask yourself: If you were McCain, would you want to have your convention first or second. (The GOP convention goes second.) But jeez, that was a long speech by Obama -- maybe too long. Obviously, last night was about putting the Deval Patrick issue to rest, so he spoke with no teleprompter and notes. We get it, but he rambled just a tad.
*** Buckeye Bill? Bill Clinton campaigns today and tomorrow in Texas. But just asking: Will we see him stump for his wife in Ohio? Because of NAFTA? According to the exit polls in Wisconsin, a whopping 72% said that trade with other countries takes more jobs from the state -- rather than creates them -- and Obama won those folks by a 57%-41% margin.
*** Michelle making news: Speaking of spouses, anyone else getting flashbacks to Hillary Clinton '92 when hearing Michelle Obama make news and, well, speak her mind? We can hear the divisive whispers about her already and some of the critiques come across like the ones Republicans leveled at Hillary '92. Barack may be coated in the same Teflon Reagan and Bill Clinton soaked in during their campaigns, but like Nancy and Hillary, Michelle Obama may not be as lucky.
*** On the trail: Elsewhere today, Clinton raises money in New York City before heading once again to South Texas, where she visits Hidalgo (with Rep. Ruben Hinojosa) and Brownsville (with Rep. Solomon Ortiz); Huckabee is also in Texas, where he holds a rally in Plano; McCain spends his day in Ohio before taking off to Obama's home state of Illinois for a media avail; and Obama holds a rally in Dallas, TX. Also today, Michelle Obama campaigns in Rhode Island and Ted Kennedy stumps in South Texas.
Countdown to the MSNBC debate in Ohio: 6
Countdown to Ohio and Texas: 13 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 258 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 335 days
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