Amazingly there are still some people calling on Hillary Clinton to pull out of the race. Hard to think of a greater waste of breath, with the exception of everyone that Brendan Nelson takes. If Hills was ever going to drop out, it would have only been after a huge Super Tuesday smackdown – if Obama had grabbed California and a couple of other biggies, as well as all those irritating caucus states.

Such a concession would have ennobled her, transformed the Clinton image. Everything she’s done since has done nothing but convince people of that most amazing of propositions, that the Clintons could get worse. I can’t see any occasion from here up to the convention that would yield a sufficiently disastrous result to have her pull out now.

Having won Pennsylvania handily – 10% was the bottom end of an upset mega-victory, but impressive nonetheless – she is now looking at a handy victory in Indiana and beating Obama down to a narrow win over her in North Carolina, both on May 6. In the week or so after, she’ll take West Virginia and Kentucky in the fortnight after, the next likely loss coming only with Oregon on May 20.

Currently running ahead of Obama in Indiana by an average of about 9% in the polls, she can only be advantaged there by the recent return of the Reverend Wright, reminding a socially conservative state that Obama comes with a lot of baggage, a fair bit of it snakeskin. That could push her into double figures there, the only caveat being that Obama’s ratings will rise the more time he manages to spend there, doing personal appearances.

North Carolina, Obama is leading by between 5 and 12%, a figure which puts a lie to easy equations of race and candidacy. Unlike South Carolina, NC is 80% white, and has a very different history – a lot of poor white farmers for many decades, the largest pre-Civil War free black population, stayed out of that conflict for as long as it reasonably could. That it subsequently signed on for segregation as enthusiastically as anyone and gave the world Jesse Helms, should in no way be seen as detracting from the subtlety of my analysis.

NC’s an open primary, so the polls swing wildly, and there’s a chance Clinton could win it – she’s running 2 to 3% ahead on a couple of polls, though the majority give Obama a solid 7 to 9% majority. There’s been allegations of the usual campaigns – most particularly automated “robocalls” to black voters, erroneously telling them they’re not registered, in the hope of improving Hillary’s margin and adding to the general chaos.

In West Virginia, Hillary will win handily, and in Kentucky she’ll romp it in for reasons I don’t want to think about. Paradoxically, given that this campaign is no longer about delegates per se, Obama’s Oregon win will be taken as further confirmation that he can’t win the general election – that of course he can take this Pacific Northwestern liberal redoubt, half cattle, half communications and media studies departments, that would vote for Dr Evil if he were the Democratic candidate.

Of the last three after that, Bama will get Montana and South Dakota, Democrats being of such force there that the margin will swing 20%, depending on whether or not Hooper’s corns were too swollen by the cold to let him get down to pull the lever at Leopold and Loeb High School, Butte.

The last dingdong stand-up knock-down battle will, hilariously enough, be Puerto Rico, not even a state, it’s a …well no-one really knows what it is – and subsidy-wise Puerto Rico wants to keep it that way.

After that there will be TEN WEEKS, TEN WEEKS until the Convention in late August, which time Hillary will use to simply keep campaigning as if there were still primaries going on like a series of imaginary numbers. That hiatus will be sufficient for the Democrats to lose it, if they haven’t done so already – a sense of terminal futility, a hell of politics will preside.

The only alternative scenario – and which I see no chance of – is an Obama quinella in Indiana and NC, two solid wins. That might be enough – might be – to start a superdelegate pledge movement, by which a clear majority would publicly announce their switch to Obama, thus giving him a presumed absolute majority. But I can’t think of any revelation now, any scandal, that would make that switch, not even if she suddenly split in two and Total Recall-like the parts of her fell away to reveal a North Korean deathbot.

So we go on, breath for breath, one foot in front of the other, to the top of the mountain and then down the other side to the foot of another mountain…

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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