Breaking news … Jack McCoy has knocked back a Man-1 deal with the guy who can finger the shooter in the mass … oh … actually that’s Law and Order on the other channel. The correspondents were basically interviewing each other and I surfed.

You’re lucky there’s any late bulletin at all it must be said. Chicago is at the tip of the “Jack McCoy zone” the intersection of east and west TV schedules where it is possible to watch the Law and Order franchise 24/7. Still, the whole point of Law and Order is the twist, and we’re getting all we need as we head towards midnight of Super Tuesday, with Obama storming ahead, and Huckabee taking four states so far to Romney’s three.

So far, Obama’s taken nine states, some, like Georgia, he could have reasonably banked on, but in some he’s absolutely stormed in, like the 73% result in Kansas, and the 67% in Minnesota. But he’s also gained a surprisingly strong showing in New York, taking almost 40% from Clinton — this all matters because of the arcane way in which the delegates are being awarded on the Democratic side.

In fact MSNBC is now saying that delegates could be a 50/50 split, although with 6% of the votes counted in California, Clinton is leading about 2 to 1. But whatever result she gets, it’s a win for Obama – and a guarantee that the next months are going to be an absolutely grueling campaign for every last delegate – including the 22 or so to be selected by the Democrats Abroad primary over the next few days. Clinton spoke about half an hour ago, and she sounded wooden and depleted – as she would, having actually taken fewer states than Obama. Obama’s speaking now – the networks cut off the end of McCain’s speech to get the start of Obama’s, which is about as symbolic as it gets – and he sounds like he just cranked it up a notch.

It’s a new speech — not his stump, thank Christ — and it’s expert, effortlessly moving from the general, to the empowering (“This is not about what I’m doing, it is what you are doing – because you are tired of the failure, tired of the lies …” etc) and then onto the specifics, the mother foreclosed on, the soldier going on another tour in a war that never should have been waged. God it’s a good speech, like Bach perfectly played, every part fitting together, every note struck at exactly the right strength.

It feels like you’re watching the moment in the race when the second runner hits the front and magically draws out the energy of the leader as they’re passed. You can count off every technique outlined by Saul Alinsky, the Chicago activist who was Obama’s inspiration – from the particular to the general, the pregnant pause, turning it round from speaker to audience, the parable that leads to the invocation, taking the story through to the call to action – “we are the people we have been waiting for to change the world. The time is unlike any other. Let’s go to work!”

He could have gone on to 2am, and you would have felt less, rather than more tired as it went on. He hasn’t taken any states people said he wouldn’t take a coupla days ago, but he’s taken states no-one thought he’d get a month ago.

You can’t help but feel that he would cream any Republican who came up against him, but that’s partly illusion.

Nevertheless, the Republicans are looking particularly sick. Romney’s looking dead, and he’s going to live or die on California, having taken only five states, two of them his hometowns (Massachusetts and Utah). And Huckabee just jacked himself into a position where he could be a credible vice-president candidate – a possibly necessary move to shore up the base, but one that would then alienate a whole tranche of middling voters. But it’s possible that the Republicans might at some point decide they just need to stay viable for 2012.

But who knows. Who knows. Stop press is that McCain is being projected as the winner of California, creaming Romney 44 to 25. That’s gotta be it for him. That was his story. That may be the Republicans’ whole story. For anyone who heard Obama’s speech, the other party fades to the distance – it’s going to stay with me for a long long time.

Peter Fray

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