So McCain has nabbed the nomination. It’s one of the greatest political comebacks of all time, and an extraordinary story since just two months ago McCain couldn’t raise enough money to pay his staff, but in a sign of things to come, the media aren’t really focused on the Republican camp at all. Nope, Hillary’s victories in Texas and Ohio mean that the death roll between the democrat nominees is set to continue for months, and today commentators are hashing over whether Hillary can claim the popular vote, where Obama went wrong, and if the politics of negativity win out after all.

All of which suits McCain just fine. The newly minted official Republican presidential candidate can now get down to the business of cementing his strong image and attacking the Democrats, with a little help from the Democrats themselves, who are in danger of ripping each other apart in a bid to win the nomination.

Clinton earned this: There are many explanations for what occurred yesterday, but let’s start by giving credit where it’s due. The Clinton campaign earned these victories. They fought tooth and nail for them, and almost entirely according to Hoyle. Say what you will about her people’s “kitchen sink” strategy, how they’ll “do anything to win.” The attacks they launched against, and questions they raised about, Obama seemed to me legit: on Rezko, on NAFTA-Canuck-gate, on his qualifications to be commander-in-chief. (By legit, I don’t mean that the Clintonites were right on the merits; I mean that the broadsides were within the bounds of acceptable political combat.) And, more than that, they allowed HRC, for the first time in a long time, to seize control of the agenda and put Obama on the defensive. But it wasn’t just the Clinton campaign that had the hopemonger ducking and weaving. — John Heilemann, New York Magazine 

Ten reasons why Obama slipped: As it became clear that Hillary Clinton was gaining ground on Obama, especially in the last week, his usually flawless campaign made several blunders. Here, in order of importance, are ten reasons why Obama slipped. — The Progressive

Toughen up kid: By the time the Texas caucuses are fully counted, Obama may have maintained or even expanded his delegate lead, despite Hillary’s victories in three out of four states. Among the remaining 600 delegates to be chosen, Obama should be able to add to his lead. But there remain 800 superdelegates, each entitled to a full vote. No matter if Obama leads among elected delegates, they can still deliver the nomination to Hillary. Do they dare? If Clinton is able to score a series of popular-vote victories in these late primaries, she could lay the basis for an appeal to the superdelegates to disregard the results of January and February and look instead at her success in the later contests. The battle of Hillary is over. The battle of Obama has begun. The question of his readiness and experience looms ever larger in the minds of the media and of voters. — Dick Morris, New York Post

Hillary — the people’s choice?: The nominating process has rules, arbitrary and inconsistent as they may be, that both candidates are obliged to play by, and by the rules Obama’s almost certainly going to come out with more delegates. But to a public that isn’t steeped in the arcana of the process, that probably doesn’t really understand the difference between a primary and a caucus and that’s going to wake up today to grapple with the weirdness of being told that Obama won more delegates in Texas even though Hillary won the primary – well, you can see how if Hillary wins Pennsylvania convincingly and pulls ahead in the popular vote, a “people’s choice,” “let the majority rule” argument might find some traction. And you can bet that the superdelegates will have their fingers in the wind. — Ross Douthat, The Atlantic

McCain’s luck: Just two months ago, the Arizona Senator was still a distant long shot, operating a bare-bones campaign on a bank loan with a dilapidated staff of mostly unpaid advisors. Then almost everything broke his way: Mike Huckabee won Iowa, crippling the powerhouse campaign of Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani abandoned New Hampshire, allowing his moderate supporters to shift to McCain. Fred Thompson stayed in the race until South Carolina, bleeding enough votes away from Huckabee to allow McCain to win that key state. Even Huckabee seemed to cooperate, devoting crucial days to a foolhardy effort in Michigan and swearing off any negative attacks on McCain before he bowed out of the race Tuesday night. — Time

Accentuate the negatives: Gone was the misty-eyed Clinton who scored points showing her human side. Gone was the gracious Clinton who, just two weeks ago, drew thunderous applause for expressing her pride in running against Barack Obama. The new voice was angrier, sharper and far more negative toward Obama — a voice that at one point bellowed at her rival, “Shame on you,” as she pushed back against what she said was an unfair attack. — The LA Times

Hillary’s white knuckle ride: During Hillary Clinton’s 11 straight losses to Barack Obama, her aides and allies started talking about the Clinton roller coaster. She wasn’t in a death plunge, they said; it was just a steep drop before an inevitable upward rise. By winning the Ohio and Texas primaries Tuesday, Clinton got that lift, but her campaign seemed less like a roller coaster and more like Lufthansa flight LH 044, a careening near-death experience that stabilized only at the last white-knuckle moment. — John Dickerson, Slate

New spin contradicts old spin: In “The Path to the Presidency,” a memo Ickes and Penn co-authored, the two say, right out of the gate, “With last night’s victories in Ohio and Texas, one thing is clear: the momentum has swung back to Hillary Clinton.” That’s funny. We could have sworn that on February 13th, Penn wrote another memo. And in that memo — which Barack Obama’s campaign is being sure to remind reporters of — Penn had a decidedly different take on things. Back then, Penn argued, “Again and again, this race has shown that it is voters and delegates who matter, not the pundits or perceived ‘momentum.'” — War Room, Salon

Peter Fray

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