> By Tony Ahern
You couldn't tell it by any lack of political coverage over the past month or so, but until yesterday it had been six weeks since anyone in any state marked a ballot in the presidential primary election.
The Pennsylvania Primary Tuesday ended that drought, and put us one step closer -- thankfully -- to concluding the Democratic Party slugfest.
As this is being word-processed on Tuesday morning, the Pennsylvania results are not yet known. Not officially, anyway. But as CNN will likely make its projection about five minutes after the polls close, we'll raise the bar and make one about five hours before they close.
Clinton wins Pennsylvania, but the margin isn't huge, somewhere between 6 and 9 percent. A far cry from the 20-or-so percent lead she had in the polls early on in the state, but enough for her to claim a solid win.
And, of course, close enough for Obama to brag about closing the gap he faced. Same ol', same ol' political spin.
And as the Democratic Party pushes sharing the wealth, the delegates will be generally split and nothing will have been settled. Pennsylvania won't change anything or substantially define the race any clearer than it was before the balloting.
Obama still has a significant, but at the same time slight, lead in the popular vote and in delegates.
Hillary basically has only one strategy remaining: hold on and hope Barack steps on a hypothetical land mine and ruins his candidacy. That isn't likely to happen. He's already survived the land mine -- his Rev. Wright caught on tape urging God to damn America -- along with several hand grenades. These include his wife saying she'd never been proud of her country until now (until her husband became the nation's darling) and routine ludicrous Internet attacks, ranging from that hot download of him not putting his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance (it was a photo taken in Iowa, and it was actually the Star-Spangled Banner, where standing erect is patriotically acceptable) to being a fake Christian and in reality a card-carrying Muslim.
Obama is still standing after all this, still leading, still garnering widespread support, which is impressive. The Obama campaign -- along with all the Democrats who can't stomach two party leaders slashing each other while Republican John McCain sits back and appreciates the help -- believes its time for Clinton to call it quits and for the party to be allowed to come together behind his candidacy.
Not gonna happen, not yet.
While there are a handful of primaries left, including Oregon's in May, it's relatively certain that the voters won't settle this race, but superdelegates will. Of those who've committed so far, Obama has a slight lead, and the momentum to build upon it.
Along with her Obama-hits-a-landmine strategy, Hillary must also find a way to convince superdelegates to commit to her. Her strongest point in the argument: against Obama, she wins the important big states -- California, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio -- which the Democrats will need to win the White House. That's true. Obama has built his lead by winning states Democrats will likely lose in November (which is most states, most of the interior West and all of the Deep South). Clinton does much better in the key Democratic states (California and New York) and in states which always seem to determine if the Democrat or Republican wins the White House -- like Ohio and Pennsylvania -- and is generally thought to be stronger than Obama in two other battleground states, Florida and Michigan, which essentially had no Democratic presidential primary this year.
While all the key-state argument is very true, what will likely weigh heavier on the superdelegates -- a fact that already has led many to Obama -- is that Hillary represents a continuation of partisan discord that we all grow increasingly sick of, and a continuation of the Bush-Clinton hold on the office, which we've experienced for nearly 20 years.
Barack Obama represents the potential of change, a new direction. The country, certainly the Democratic party, seems hungry for just that. Eventually, that spirit will swing the vast majority of the superdelegates for Obama.
Hillary will likely battle on. But she'll concede well before the convention, so as not to completely firebomb the party's chance in November. She'll give a rousing speech at the convention, wholeheartedly endorse Obama, and months of bitter campaigning will (kind of) be forgiven.