A debate challenge. Over the long haul, Clinton's strategists hope that her experience in national politics will carry them over the top. Bill and Hillary Clinton have, after all, run successful presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996, and they have shown themselves to be tough, creative, and very disciplined—all valuable skills in a presidential campaign.
Clinton advisers also have concluded that she performs substantially better than Obama in debates. And before the polls had closed on Super Tuesday, they announced that she would participate in four more debates and challenged Obama to do the same. It's best for voters to evaluate the two candidates "face to face," says Penn, in a forum where Clinton can challenge Obama if he misstates facts, in the view of her campaign, or gives wrong impressions.
Obama's strategists say they won't play Clinton's game. They promise to participate in debates only according to their own timetable, pointing out that Obama has participated in 18 such encounters so far.
Show of strength. On Super Tuesday, the results amounted to a split decision, with each candidate showing strength in every region of the country. Clinton, with strong support among women, seniors, and Hispanics, won eight states. They included New York, which she represents in the Senate, Arkansas, where she was first lady, as well as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Clinton solidly won California, the biggest prize of all in popular votes and delegates, with the support of white women, seniors, Asians, and in particular Latinos, who went for her over Obama 66 percent to 33 percent.
Obama, riding strong support from black voters and young people, won his home state of Illinois, as well as Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, and North Dakota, part of his total of 13 states.
Obama's strategists argue that they also have a financial advantage over Clinton, having raised $32 million in January compared with only $13.5 million for Clinton in the same period. Another indication of Clinton's fund-raising trouble is that she loaned her campaign an additional $5 million last month so she could remain competitive in buying TV ads and conducting other campaign activities.
All this guarantees a state-by-state duel for the next several weeks and raises the possibility of the race being decided at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August.
With that in mind, Clinton's strategists have come up with a surprise gambit. They are arguing that the results of January primaries in Florida and Michigan should count toward delegate totals, even though the DNC banned those delegates because the contests were held too early, in violation of party rules. Now the Clinton team, which agreed to the ban, is arguing against "disenfranchising" those primary voters as a matter of basic democracy. The Obama campaign, apparently thrown off guard, is considering its options.
The reason for Clinton's move is clear. She won the popular vote in both states, partly because no other candidate seriously contested them in deference to the DNC rules. "We took a pledge, just like Hillary did," to abide by the DNC penalties, says Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "The delegates will not count."