The great Massachusetts uprising never even began. New York and New Jersey fell without incident, and the margin in California was simply too large to overcome.
Still, a little before midnight, the show was finally about to begin. As John McCain ambled through the close of an uneventful speech to what seemed like a crowd of a couple of hundred friends, MSNBC went to a split screen. The other image was Barack Obama about to take the stage in Chicago, and the place was rocking.
An Obama speech on primary night is always the headlining act. The rest of the candidates are like Tom Petty opening for U2 — solid but unspectacular. And hardly transformative.
The networks cut McCain off and switched over to Obama. Fox, of course, did not. With a shrug of his shoulders that signalled it was time, Obama went to work: Part revival preacher, part rock star, he didn’t say a whole lot that he hasn’t said before. But like Bono singing songs you know by heart (El-E-Vation!), you waited with anticipation for the chorus. “Our time,” Obama said, “has come.”
Obama has been fighting a battle, not just against a worthy adversary in Hillary Clinton, but against the clock. He sliced into those 20-point deficits in New York, New Jersey, and California, but he couldn’t close the deal on the East Coast in any state except Connecticut, and he got crushed in the Bay State.
Missouri went his way, an unexpected prize, but there was no holy shit moment last night. Obama racked up wins in caucuses across states like Idaho, Minnesota, Kansas, and North Dakota, which certainly look pretty on the electoral maps, but this is about delegates.
The next few weeks will be confusing as the pundits will try to make sense of the Democrats’ rules for delegates, specifically Super Delegates, unpledged party leaders who could swing the nomination. They are designed to quell unexpected uprisings, like Obama’s. As difficult as it is to read the tea leaves in this election, it appears Obama needs to win the rest of the way, not just close the gap.
Time is Obama’s greatest ally and his toughest foe, and he bought himself more of it last night. The election calendar has a handful of caucus states (Washington, Nebraska, and Maine) mixed with the primaries in the Beltway states (Maryland, Virginia and D.C.). The big prizes: Texas and Ohio, and then Pennsylvania, are still in play.
The show goes on. For now.
UPDATE: Well, what did we say about reading tea leaves? Obama’s camp is claiming a delegate win last night. The super delegates remain very much in play, and indications are Clinton still holds the edge there. Again, Obama will have to not only cut into Clinton’s lead in the bigger state primaries, he will have to carry some of those states outright.
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