If Hillary Clinton doesn't beat Barack Obama decisively in Ohio and Texas, should she bow out graciously or keep on fighting? Two weeks ago, I would have said she should bow out. But like everything else in this unusually kooky and phenomenally interesting primary season, things change from minute to minute, and those changes prompt consequential changes in one's calculations.
The mainstream media cite a series of factors in Clinton's decision-making process on whether to keep fighting. First, there are the statements and promises her staff, even her husband, have made about her campaign's future if she does not win one or both states:
Bill Clinton himself has suggested his wife would drop out after a loss, telling a Texas audience Feb. 21: "If she wins Texas and Ohio, I think she will be the nominee. If you don't deliver for her then I don't think she can be."
Then there is the fact that Obama has significantly outspent her on TV in both states:
The intensity of Obama's drive is especially apparent on television, where, using his huge financial advantage, he has outspent Clinton nearly 2-1 in the two states, helping him to eat deeply into double-digit leads she held in polls just weeks ago.
While the conventional media point to Obama's spending tactics as a motivating factor for Clinton to give up, they could prove to be just the opposite. If he does not beat her decisively where he has doubly outspent her, perhaps he is the one who should consider dropping out.
What's less well examined is the fact Obama's honeymoon with the media is about over. The trial of wealthy Chicago political operative Tony Rezko, who raised money for Obama's bid for the Senate, is scheduled to start today.
Rezko helped Obama select and buy his Chicago home in what Obama has since called the most "bone-headed" thing he ever did. That decision, however, was worse than merely bone-headed. Obama has returned some $150,000 in political donations in various stages from Rezko, his family, and others. Those monies should have been returned all at once.
There may be more Obama has yet to give back. More about the Obama-Rezko relationship may well come out at trial. If nothing else, Obama supporters who are unaware of the senator's ties to Rezko will certainly become better aware of the relationship as this trial progresses.
Will that turn voters against him? It stands to reason that it will when it becomes better known.
Obama has faltered on several important fronts these past few weeks, but his rock star status has masked these flaws from gawking supporters. Take, for example, the Canadian Embassy/NAFTA story. CTV News (a commercial Canadian TV network) disclosed that a high-level Obama campaign representative contacted senior Canadian embassy staff and government officials, telling them Obama's campaign rhetoric on renegotiating NAFTA was just rhetoric and they should ignore it. NAFTA's serious business in Ohio, where it's blamed for shipping highly paid factory jobs overseas.
There are remaining doubts about how far he is willing to distance himself from Louis Farrakhan, whom he referred to in last Tuesday's debate as "Minister" and whom he refused to reject until he was forced to do so.
His supporters say it's in the party's best interests for Clinton to bow out if she doesn't have a decisive victory in Ohio or Texas tomorrow. Perhaps the opposite is true.
If a major scandal is revealed two months from now and Obama becomes unelectable, will an early decision to withdraw by Clinton have been in the party's best interests? One thinks not.