Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Clinton wins Ohio

After coming out of the gate behind Barack Obama in Texas, Hillary Clinton slowly crept closer ... closer ... closer to him as returns rolled in. The spread was 2,000 votes, then 1,500, then 200 out of more than 1.4 million votes counted. Finally, at 9:45 Central time, Clinton overtook Obama to take the lead in the Lone Star State.

Her supporters cheered.

But, like their candidate, they were just getting warmed up: Just more than 10 minutes later, political pundits called Ohio -- one of Clinton's two firewall states -- for the former first lady, and her supporters went wild.

The early focus in the aftermath -- even as votes continue to be counted in Texas -- is more on what it means for Obama than what it means for Clinton. Was it "buyer's remorse" that led voters to break for Clinton? Is it indicative of a mistrust voters have of Obama's leadership capability? Does it indicate that Obama has peaked?

As an example, the CNN pundit desk is wrapped up in the intricacies of what is coming to be known as "NAFTA-gate," Obama's series of missteps regarding discussions his campaign surrogates had (or didn't have?) with members of the Canadian government about whether Obama was sincere in his comments last week that he would force a renegotiation of the trade deal or withdraw the United States from it.

CNN pundit Alex Castellanos is exactly right in that is isn't that Clinton has found her own voice; it's that she has kept Obama -- since the weekend, at least -- from using his. She has put him on the defensive, knocking him around on the ropes a bit, and he's lost his footing. The question now will be whether he can regain it, and whether he can regain it in time.