When I went to cover Hillary Clinton in March, Beltway pundits were already writing her political obituary. “It’s over…she can’t win,” they said, pointing to delegate counts and Barack Obama’s fundraising advantage as proof. Certainly, the pundits said, super-delegates wouldn’t dare risk alienating black voters by depriving Obama of the nomination.
Assuming that the pundits knew what they were talking about, many Republicans started gearing up for a fall general election campaign against Obama. But now that Hillary’s won Pennsylvania — and now that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s turned into an Eagleton-style PR nightmare for Obama — those assumptions are starting to look a little less certain.
The latest polls show Hillary leading solidly in Indiana, and narrowing the gap in North Carolina. If she adds Indiana to a string of wins that already includes Ohio and Pennsylvania, Team Clinton’s persistent questioning about Obama’s “electability” in swing states might start to register with super-delegates. The Wright controversy won’t help Obama in the May 13 primary in West Virginia, another swing state that Democrats must win in November. And Team Clinton continues to make noise about the DNC “disenfranchising” Michigan and Florida — two other key swing states claimed by Hillary.
How serious is the threat of a Hillary comeback? Rush Limbaugh today called a temporary pause in “Operation Chaos,” his effort to push Republicans to vote for Hillary in the Democratic primaries. Limbaugh says Obama may be so damaged by the Wright fallout that it’s no longer certain that Hillary would be the weaker Democratic candidate in the general election. If Rush sees it that way, might the super-delegates start seeing it, too?