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Obama: From unknown to powerhouse

First there was the candidate that nobody ever heard of. Barack who? By Super Tuesday, the Obama wave was lapping at the Clinton juggernaut. Even then, in a race for delegates that most talking heads thought was too close to call, the fairy tale of Obama's electability that the Clintons had scoffed at seemed increasingly likely to turn out to be their nightmare. It has. In a few short weeks, Obama won ten convincing victories in Democratic caucuses and elections nationwide.

Along the road to these defeats, Hillary adopted the Giuliani strategy. Bet the house on one important state she was certain to win. Her campaign, like his, insisted that losses in the smaller states don't count for much. Giuliani would stake all on a victory in Florida, and show everybody that he would win the important states. He lost. Hillary will lose, too.

Clinton had better prospects than Giuliani, until recently. She won some of the biggest prizes; California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. In each of those Super Tuesday states the Clinton juggernaut was so firmly entrenched that the surprise was not that she won, but that Obama narrowed the once huge gap as much as he did, except in Massachusetts.

Obama pressed on, with big victories from Maine to Hawaii, Alabama to Washington, and a key victory in Wisconsin, where the demographics presumably favored Clinton — So the pundits thought. Obama himself was among the early ones to call his campaign for change a movement. It wasn't long before an ever-increasing chorus of voters and political heavyweights joined him. It probably won't be much longer before the movement becomes a tsunami that will leave the Clintons little choice but to concede that Obama has won, or face humiliation at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Well before the Wisconsin primary, the Clinton campaign calculated that victory in Texas would propel her to wins in Ohio and Pennsylvania, working class states where she was presumed to be strongest. These victories would prove that she is a winner in the big states that are critical to winning the presidency. Just as the surprise victory in New Hampshire propelled her back into the lead in the beginning, the turnaround in the coming weeks would give her the nomination, thanks to superdelegate commitments.

Targeting Texas for a last stand certainly made sense — if you believe that the electorate isn't volatile, can't be easily swayed to change its mind, and that your strongest bases of support — women, Latinos, lower income and less educated workers — would stand by you through thick and thin. Consider that women vote in greater numbers than men, and their sympathy brought victory in New Hampshire. No doubt Clinton's campaign strategy depended on both prayers and assurances that momentum doesn't count for much.

There should be little doubt by now that the assurance and the momentum are in the Obama camp. Prayers seem less likely than ever to help the Clintons. Bill is all but conceding that if Hillary doesn't win both Texas and Ohio, she will not be the Democratic nominee. That is less likely with each passing day.

If the Wisconsin primary is any indication of what is to come, Obama has all but won over just about every base of Clinton support but women who are too old or too repressed to have benefited from women's liberation. He is also winning important endorsements, including the Teamsters Union, major Texas newspapers and even Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign manager. Other important Democratic Party leaders are becoming vocal about the voters deciding who the nominee will be, and not the superdelegates. Hillary certainly seemed to agree in the Texas debate on Feb. 21. She abandoned her previous position that the superdelegates should choose who they think will be the best president, regardless of the popular vote.

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