Indiana, North Carolina Primary Results: HuffPost Bloggers Weigh In

A senior campaign official and Clinton confidante has told me that there will be a Democratic nominee by June 15. He could not bring himself to say the words "Hillary will drop out by June 15," but that is clearly what he meant. I kept saying, "So, Hillary will drop out by June 15," and he kept saying, "We will have a nominee by June 15." He stressed what a reasonable person Hillary is.

It's been my impression that Obama - perhaps to a fault - seems to outright loathe having to do what the media expects of him. It's why he constantly insists that he's never going to change his style of campaigning (even as he does just that). There's been some obvious movement away from that position - Obama's newfound willingness to engage the Fox News Channel is a fitting example. But with the media stating explicit demands, and practically begging Obama to just let them give him a news-cycle win, Obama finally sucked it up and gave in last night, during his speech in North Carolina.

Obama's performance last night destroyed the rationale for Hillary's continued candidacy. Everything rested on her argument of superior electability. After his loss in Pennsylvania, Barack faced gale force political winds. The media had turned. Hillary was on the attack. Reverend Wright threw himself into the center of the debate. But in spite of it all, Obama won an overwhelming victory in the tenth largest state.

Hillary's surprise underperformance in Indiana can partially be traced to the massive turnout of the Obama base of young people and African Americans. But it is also resulted from his success with swing voters. Every age group but people over 60 went for Obama. Independents went for Obama 54% to 46%. And in both North Carolina and Indiana a substantial majority thought Obama was more likely to beat John McCain (55% to 39% in North Carolina; 51% to 46% in Indiana).

Indiana voters trusted Hillary on the economy, but by a far narrower margin than previous primaries. In North Carolina, Obama won that category handily, suggesting that the fight over Clinton's gas-tax gimmick ultimately favored Obama - and honesty. At almost every turn, voters rejected the politics of Hillary Clinton. By a twenty point gap, voters believed Hillary unfairly attacked Obama in Indiana, a reality that has no doubt contributed to the widening divide within the party.

What is unclear still is whether, given Hillary's crushing defeat Tuesday night, she can possibly move the race forward. Whatever path to the nomination she once envisioned has entirely evaporated, a reality not lost on the remaining superdelegates. How soon will they wait to throw their support behind the first black nominee in our history?

There's been a great deal of bitterness and anger on both sides of the fight. And, to be crass and point out the unpalatable truth, there isn't a lot in it for Hillary to back Obama in a more than pro-forma "going through the motions" fashion. If he loses, she's the presumptive nominee in 4 years, after all. If he wins, she probably has to wait 8 years, and she's not getting any younger. If she really wants to be president, well, Obama's still in the way. Now I'm not saying she won't help Obama even if such thoughts are going through her mind, no doubt she understands what another 4 years of a Republican presidency would mean. Still, there's help, and there's going all out. And there's a lot of space between the two.

So if I'm Obama; if I'm one of Obama's advisors, no matter how much I may share the view of some associated with the campaign about Hillary, I'd be thinking real hard right now about what it's going to take to bring her and Bill on board in a big way, so that they do everything possible to really deliver the votes of their supporters.

Before today's primaries she had already lost the nomination process according to any objective measure not invented by her own campaign. She was trailing in pledged delegates, and was even lagging behind in that questionable and tainted metric they call the "popular vote" count. After tonight, she'll still be lagging. There was no "game-changer" tonight. It's still over. She's still through.

The "deal" she had to close wasn't the nomination itself, but something less lofty. She merely needed to "un-conclude" the race, by convincing superdelegates and party loyalists of two things: That Obama had a "glass jaw" (to use a Republican phrase), and that by contrast she had the momentum and fighting ability of a true winner. Those two ideas needed to be demonstrated in a convincing manner - so convincing, in fact, that Party leaders could justify overturning the agreed-upon selection process. It was a tall order, and she fell short.

Obama's speech: "I know the promise of America, because I've lived it." Here's Obama talking about why he loves America, and why he's patriotic, in a new, fresh speech that aims him toward the general -- but looks back at the doubters, and reminds them about his own roots: "This is the country that gave my grandfather the chance to go to college on the G.I. bill when he came home from World War II...this is the country that made it possible for my mother, who had to go on food stamps at one point, to send my sister and me to the best colleges...that's the America I love. That's the America you love. That's the America that we are fighting for in this election." Yeah, that's his America, people. So go give that flag pin to someone who needs it.

The encouraging lesson from Obama's huge win in North Carolina and near-win in Indiana is that perhaps the fear card no longer trumps all others. The Bush presidencies were fueled by what Jonathan Alter of Newsweek recently called, "underinformed voters," explicitly voting against their own economic interests, often for reasons that were patently wrong. Remember during the last election, in survey after survey, a majority of Bush voters thought that Iraqis were responsible for 9/11.

Hillary's fuel tax scam was aimed squarely at those voters and along with the wall-to-wall Wright coverage it was assumed that they would be tricked and scared into flocking to her.

You have to give Hillary Clinton's team credit for one thing: they have masterfully played the perception game. It might have been all smoke and mirrors, but they have done their job of keeping people confused and distracted them from what really matters.

The reality is that: 1. She has no chance of beating Barack Obama. 2. She has had no chance of beating Barack Obama for a long time now. 3. Most importantly, she has deluded people into thinking her chances of winning the nomination were improving as they were getting dramatically worse. I can prove it with one simple set of numbers.

John McCain has been the nominee of his party for over a month now. He has no active opposition, no figure on his side of the aisle contesting him for leadership of the Republican party and the conservative movement. And yet, Republicans are still voting against him. In Indiana McCain pulled in 77% of the vote, and he made an even worse showing with 73% in North Carolina. Even more troubling for McCain is that Huckabee is the leading protest vote. That's the religious right vote, the anti-choice crowd and the bedrock of President Bush's re-election victory.

In Indiana, Obama improved his support across several key demographics, despite a bruising month of attacks on his pastor, patriotism and populism. Compared to Ohio and Pennsylvania, he generally drew more votes from white women, Catholics, gun owners, households earning under $50,000 annually, voters prioritizing the economy, and voters without a college degree.

It must be understood that the Clintons are beyond persuasion or capable of thinking beyond their own interests, at least not on their own. Left to their own repetitive patterns, they will step up the attempt to damage Barack Obama so that he is rendered unelectable in the minds of the superdelegates. At the very least, beginning this week, this may mean an assault on Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground, and a twisted depiction of Obama's history of statements on the Palestinians.

8:34 From this moment forward, everything the Clinton campaign says will include the words "Michigan and Florida." The DNC will not accept the popular vote in either state and will, instead, seat the delegates 50-50. [...]

8:28 Here's what the superdelegates will see: The Rev. Wright story has done very little -- if any -- damage to Senator Obama. In fact, it might have rallied more voters to Senator Obama in the same way NH swung heavily to Senator Clinton when she was being wrongly counted out.

We might have heard the preamble to the most important endorsement of the Democratic Primary last night when Senator Hillary Clinton promised to back the Democratic nominee, "no matter what." It's now time for Hillary Clinton to think through what that will entail. After having spent months and millions trying to convince voters that Barack Obama is not really qualified to be president, Clinton must now do a 180, and make the case that Obama, and not John McCain, is the one and only candidate suited for the presidency. Perversely, Hillary Clinton's political future now depends on the vigor with which she supports the Obama campaign.

Joseph A. Palermo: Now, It's Really Over!:

The election did several things for the Obama campaign:

1). It defeated the myth that Barack Obama is an "elitist" because he received 36 percent of the white working-class vote in North Carolina and an impressive tally among white voters in Indiana.

2). The fact that 93 percent of African-American voters in North Carolina cast their ballots for Obama repudiates any notion that his association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright casts a pall over his judgment in the eyes a black electorate steeped in the traditions of the black church. And these are voters who are also steeped in the history of the civil rights movement. (Remember, it was in Greensboro where the lunch counter sit-ins ignited the civil rights and black student movements.)

As voters go to the polls today to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, there's an overlooked peril facing all voters this year: a failing election system and GOP-led vote suppression. All these obstacles undermine fair and accurate voting, leading to potential meltdowns and the disenfranchisement of voters, especially African-Americans, the elderly and students.

Today, Hillary holds a 14 superdelegate lead. My guess is in the coming days, Obama will overtake Hillary. He'll do it with the help of superdelegates who finally declare, but also, with the help of the super-duper delegates. Each announcement by a super-duper delegate will be a body slam to the Clinton campaign, but also a source of gathering momentum for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Miles Mogulescu: It's As Good As Over!:

It's now clear that Barack will end the evening increasing his popular vote lead and delegate lead over Hillary. It is mathematically all but certain that no matter what happens in the handful of remaining contests, Barack will end up in the first week in June having won the most elected delegates, the most votes and the most states. Absent an extraordinary scandal, it is now all but inconceivable that the superdelegates would then take the nomination away from Barack and hand it to Hillary.

The media talking heads then ask aloud why Obama can't "close the deal" (in Clinton's own words) and what is numerically a defeat for Clinton (because the results, even in her recent wins, bring her objectively farther from the nomination in the context of the smaller number of delegates then available) gets spun as a Clinton victory.

Robert L. Borosage: Carolina On My Mind:

The superdelegates couldn't take the nomination from Obama without severely damaging the party. And it will serve no one -- neither Hillary nor Obama -- to continue a race in which she has no choice but to burlesque his positions to contrast them with her own in route to inevitable defeat. The Clinton campaign will want to fight on, no doubt. But it will be time for Dean, Reid, and Pelosi to shepherd the uncommitted superdelegates into getting off the fence in large numbers to bring this thing to a close.