Friday, February 22, 2008

A sense that the end is near

I'll begin at the end, because somehow it seems most pertinent. At the close of last night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton conveyed the impression that she is preparing herself for defeat.

Some of this was communicated in her words: "And, you know, no matter what happens in this contest - and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored. Whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends." More importantly, it was communicated in the way she spoke those words. She sounded wistful, as if resigned to her political fate.

Actually, she seemed to be going through the motions for much of the evening - repeatedly forfeiting opportunities to skewer Barack Obama, and reciting scripted attack lines with no apparent fervor. Perhaps the news yesterday of her latest 11th straight loss (roughly 20,000 voters living overseas, organized in a party-sanctioned contest called Democrats Abroad, had opted for Obama in another 2-1 landslide) had taken the stuffing out of her. Or perhaps it was the news that the polls in Texas and Ohio have tightened considerably, and that her latest firewalls may indeed fall to the prevailing winds. Even the Teamsters have now endorsed Obama.

Whatever the reason - and perhaps it's just plain fatigue, given the pace that she and Obama have been compelled to sustain - she seemed tentative at a time when she could least afford it. She needed to do something, or have something happen, that would dramatically change the dynamic of the Democratic race. But nothing changed. Obama wants his momentum to be the prevailing story line of the week, and nothing came out of the debate to change that.

She was repeatedly invited, by the moderators, to shake things up. She was asked, for example, to explain why she believes (at least in stump speeches) that Obama is just a guy who talks a good game. In Texas lingo, she was asked whether she believes that her rival is all hat and no cattle.

She launched into a laborious, cautious response, the verbal equivalent of tiptoeing in bare feet on hot coals ("I know that there are comparisons and contrasts to be drawn between us"), along with a rote observation about the hapless Obama surrogate who was hammered by Chris Matthews the other night for his failure to cite any Obama achievements. She didn't explain the reference. More significantly, she passed up a chance to confront Obama with an argument that might have made some news. She could have quizzed him on his thin Senate record, and asked him to cite a single instance when he has taken a leadership role on any of the big issues (poverty, education, immigration, health care). She didn't, and the moment passed.

Later, she was asked to explain why she believes (at least on the stump) that she alone is ready to be the next commander-in-chief. Why doesn't she believe that Obama has those qualities?

Again she punted. She launched instead into a long recitation of her own resume ("What I mean is that, you know, for more than 15 years, I've been honored to represent our country in more than 80 countries..."), and didn't say a word about Obama.

Perhaps, at this late stage of the debate, she was simply gun shy about assailing Obama; earlier, while talking about how Obama had borrowed some rhetoric from his friend and national co-chair, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, she had uttered one of her scripted attack lines ("lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox"), and the audience had booed.

But perhaps there's a more high-minded reason why she didn't question his commander creds: Facing the prospect of defeat in the primaries, she may not have wanted to undercut Obama on this key qualification and thereby give the Republicans ammunition. (The GOP has already been cranking out press releases contending that Obama is not ready to command).

Whatever the reason for her hesitance, she afforded Obama the luxury of responding in the manner of his choosing. And he took full advantage. Not only did he talk up his own priorities ("My number one job as president will be to keep the American people safe"), but he didn't hestitate to say a few words about Clinton. He shifted to the offense and whacked her for voting to authorize the Iraq war, weaving it into his overall response:

"And on what I believe was the single most important foreign policy decision of this generation, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, I believe I showed the judgment of a commander in chief. And I think that Senator Clinton was wrong in her judgments on that."

A year ago, when Obama was an untested debater, he would not have seized such an opening and twisted the knife so deftly.

Nor did Clinton show much fight on the sensitive issue of the superdelegates. When asked whether the superdelegates should choose a nominee in defiance of how the public voted in the primaries (an option that the Clinton camp has vigorously promoted), yet again she punted. Her full non-answer:

"Well, you know, these are the rules that are followed, and you know, I think that it will sort itself out. I'm not worried about that. We will have a nominee, and we will have a unified Democratic Party, and we will go on to victory in November."

And Obama took that open opportunity to put himself on the side of the people's will, and imply that the superdelegates should follow suit: "Well, I think it is important, given how hard Senator Clinton and I have been working, that these primaries and caucuses count for something. And so my belief is that the will of the voters, expressed in this long election process, is what ultimately will determine who our next nominee is going to be." And then he wove that into his larger theme about making politics and government work for the average citizen, and "knocking down the barriers that stand between the American people and their dreams."

Meanwhile, Clinton's aides were reduced to sending out press releases about how, for instance, Obama last night used a word that John Kerry had used four years ago. It seems that Kerry, while lamenting the loss of factory jobs in the Rustbelt, described how machinery had been "unbolted" from the floor and shipped to plants overseas...and last night, early in the debate, Obama said he has talked to Ohio workers who have seen their equipment "unbolted" and shipped to China.

If this is the best they can do, then it's no wonder that Clinton sounded so elegiac at the closing.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain to The Times: Thank you very much

John McCain should send a dozen roses and a thank-you note to The New York Times.

There he was, trudging from one primary to the next, racking up underwhelming victories because of his chronic inability to bond with the Republican right...and, lo and behold, The Times comes along today and provides him with a gift-wrapped opportunity to bond with the Republican right.

The Times is the enemy, the paper that conservatives love to hate. The Times has just published a front-page story insinuating that something unseemly (we know not what, exactly) may have occurred nine years ago between McCain and a Washington lobbyist who looks like Michelle Pfeiffer. Therefore, even though conservatives have generally viewed McCain as an enemy, they now have a visceral reason to bond with him.

As the old political adage goes, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Here's how conservatives feel today about their new friend: Rush Limbaugh, who for weeks has been assailing McCain as a nutty lefty, now declares that poor McCain is being victimized by "the Drive By media," which is "trying to destroy him." Jed Babbin, editor of Human Events, a popular conservative organ, says The Times is trying to smear the presumptive GOP nominee because "they're political activists posing as news people." David Brody, a conservative commentator with a big religious-right readership, points out that, in his circles, "if The New York Times does a 'hit job' on you, then you wear that as a conservative badge of honor."

Many others have leapt to McCain's defense, but the cleverest remark comes from publicist/author Craig Shirley, who says that "Ho Chi Minh was more professional in his dealings with John McCain than The New York Times," a two-fer that puts The Times to the left of a communist, while invoking the candidate's war-hero credentials. (Those creds will be invoked all year, to innoculate McCain against whatever charges may be hurled his way.)

Frankly, why shouldn't McCain spin this episode into gold? The Times story, reportedly in the works for many months, is ideal material for conservative base mobilization - precisely because, with respect to its allegations, it seems lighter than a souffle.

There was some cackling in Democratic circles today about this story - which suggests that McCain's undefined "relationship" with lobbyist Vicki Iseman had once threatened his image as a man of honor - but suffice it to say that if the same story, with the same sourcing and details, had been published about a leading Democratic contender, those same cacklers would be going ballistic right now.

The story says that, back in 1999, some McCain aides (unnamed) were "convinced the relationship had become romantic" (but it doesn't say what evidence, if any, led them to believe this). At the very least, these aides worried about "the appearance of a close bond" and the possibility of "potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest," since Iseman's telecommunications clients had business with McCain's Senate Commerce Committee.

But there's no evidence in the story that "the appearance" ever led to any actual conflicts of interest - beyond the fact that McCain once sent two letters to the Federal Communications Commission, asking that it rule soon on whether a key Iseman client, Lowell Paxson, should be granted a TV license. McCain himself has mentioned that episode in his memoirs, and it's old news anyway, because the press reported on it nine years ago - noting at the time that while the FCC rebuked McCain for writing those letters, there was no evidence that McCain had tried to muscle the agency into ruling a certain way.

But back to the Times story. It says that the unnamed aides got McCain to admit that he had been "behaving inappropriately" with Iseman, but there's no way to know whether that phrase refers to the behavior of lovers, or the behavior of platonic pals who are plotting to help a lobbying client in violation of the public interest, or the behavior of pals who are simply hanging too often in the gossipy world of politics. Meanwhile, at a press conference this morning, McCain said he had no such confessional conversations with aides.

And that's where we stand at the moment. The latest Fox News poll, which sampled voters earlier this week, finds that roughly one-third of the Republican base is still resistant to McCain. The Times story will help him, especially with Limbaugh and some of his confederates rushing to battle the common enemy. Still, I'd bet that some of the diehard McCain critics on the right - especially Mitt Romney's people - are wishing today that the common enemy had run this story six weeks ago, before the primary season began.


The Democratic finalists debate again tonight, with Hillary Clinton still trying to figure out how she can go negative on Barack Obama in an effective fashion, without somehow alienating the millions of Democrats who have come to believe he walks on water. Whatever happens, rest assured that, when the event ends, Obama will not be chivalrously pulling her chair back this time...unless she's still sitting in it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's hard to spin when you don't win

Did I mention one week ago, in the wake of landslide losses in Virginia and Maryland, that the Hillary Clinton campaign resembled the Titanic just as the second-class cabins were starting to flood? I did indeed. But here's an update:

The water is ascending the grand staircase, and threatening the first-class dinnerware.

It's hard to imagine how the Clinton people can possibly spin away what happened last night in Wisconsin, when in reality the next round of voters, in Ohio and Texas, will awaken this morning to news stories declaring that Barack Obama has buried Hillary in yet another landslide; that, on a percentage basis, Hillary lost almost as badly as Mike Huckabee lost to John McCain on the Republican side; that Obama has now won 10 contests in succession (the 10th was Hawaii, last night), all of them blowouts; and that, most importantly, he has effectively whittled away at her electoral base, to the point where large chunks of that base seem poised to defect. It's hard to imagine that Texas and Ohio, voting 13 days from now, will not be influenced by the magnitude of Obama's achievements.

But hang on: The Clinton people did try to spin away Wisconsin last night. Lisa Caputo, a longtime Hillary ally and intimate, went on cable TV and insisted (just as I predicted yesterday) that the loss was partly attributable to the fact that Obama spent more money. But that wasn't the real spin. She proceeded to argue that Hillary bombed out because Wisconsin has "a different demographic situation. Wisconsin is very prone to the independents."

There were three fundamental flaws in that remark. First, a Democratic candidate's ability to attract independents is actually an asset (Obama topped Hillary among independents by 27 percentage points), because, after all, independents generally swing presidential elections. Which means that the candidate who is weaker among independents is arguably less electable. Caputo, by saying in essence, "We lost because Obama is strong with independents," implicitly admitted that her candidate is weak with swing voters.

Second, even if she wants to minimize Obama's Wisconsin victory by shrugging off the independents, here's something she failed to mention: The Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4 are also open to independents. Given that reality, how does Hillary expect to post the lopsided victories she so badly needs?

And third, by focusing only on the independents in Wisconsin, Caputo somehow omitted her candidate's more fundamental problem: the fact that her base is leaching away, courtesy of Obama's steady incursions.

Just as he did a week ago in Virginia and Maryland, Obama went deep into Hillary's strongholds. As evidenced in the exit polls, he won blue-collar voters, the people who make $50,000 or less, by 10 percentage points. He won the voters who didn't finish college, by 13 points. He won self-identified Democrats, by seven points. He split white Catholics, winning them by one point, and he won white voters overall, by nine points. He even captured 47 percent of white women (Hillary's Ground Zero constituency), whereas, just six weeks ago in New Hampshire, he only drew 33 percent.

He won every income bracket, and every region of the state. He won the cities, suburbia, and the rural regions. On the question of who is more qualified to be commander in chief, he won by four points. On the question of who is more electable in November, he won by 26 points. On the question of who would better unite the country, he won by 27 points.

Conversely, on the question of who was the most unfair attacker, Hillary outdistanced Obama by 20 points - which suggests that her last-ditch bid to paint Obama as a plagiarizer was akin to a grenade blowing up in her hand. Clearly, most voters were not impressed by her (accurate) complaint that Obama had borrowed some rhetorical flourishes employed by his buddy, the governor of Massachusetts. She and her aides had hammered Obama on that point during the final three days - yet it's instructive to note that Obama won 53 percent of the voters who made up their minds in the final three days.

So what can Hillary do next, now that she has fallen farther behind in the aggregate popular vote, and in the all-important pledged delegate count?

She'll obviously try to tweak or even overhaul her message, but mostly she may be forced to sit tight and hope for the best - hope that Obama makes a mistake in the next debate on Thursday night, or perhaps in the debate next Tuesday night; hope that some of the smarter criticisms of Obama (offered by respected commentators) somehow register with the besotted electorate; hope that she isn't hit with a speight of defections among the superdelegates who committed to her early (indeed, after last night, it's doubtful that any of the current fence-sitters are going to sign on with her during this hiatus before Texas and Ohio); and hope that she can raise new money from donors who might now be tempted to view her as damaged goods.

By contrast, Obama can now plausibly argue that he has national appeal; that he can win in northern swing states (Wisconsin), bellwether midwestern states (Missouri), and diehard Democratic states (Maryland), and even red states that are trending Democratic (Virginia). He can argue that his strength among independents and white males, combined with his apparently growing appeal to core Democratic voters, would make him the more effective November candidate. He can even point out, in the days ahead, that Ohio's demographics are roughly the same as Wisconsin's.

Which brings us back to the perils of lousy spin. Early yesterday, Politico reported that Hillary and her people, if facing defeat, might ultimately try to raid Obama's pledged delegates in a last-ditch bid to win the nomination. The story - which was actually a trial balloon floated by a Hillary operative - kicked up such a fervor that within hours the Hillary campaign felt compelled to deny it. Apparently the Democratic party rules do not explicitly require pledged delegates to honor the primary results in their states, but here's the thing:

It's hard to imagine, barring a miracle reversal of Obama's fortunes, that any pledged Obama delegate would volunteer to defy the popular will and sign up with a candidate who seems to be going down. More importantly, the Politico story itself demonstrates just how desperate the Hillary people have become. Ditto Hillary's new delegate website, which insists that "the race is currently a virtual tie." It's hard to serve up credible spin when you don't win.

And speaking of spin, a politically-wired Philadelphia lawyer has just emailed his own thoughts on what Hillary's people would be saying today if the candidates' situations were reversed:

"Imagine this. If Clinton had just won her 10th straight primary/caucus, and 24th and 25th out of 36 states, how much talk would there be from (her spokespeople) that Obama needs to 'step down' for 'the good of the party,' to allow the party to coalesce around its 'obvious frontrunner'?"


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The stakes in the cheesehead primary

Ah Wisconsin, birthplace of the presidential primary (yes, nearly a century ago) and a state where so many candidacies have come to ruin (Hubert Humphrey in 1960, Mo Udall in 1976, John Edwards and Howard Dean in 2004, among many others). For the 2008 Democratic finalists, Wisconsin might ultimately prove to be a mere pit stop, but at the moment it looks like a potential fork in the long and winding road.

If Hillary Clinton wins tonight (defying most of the polls, as in New Hampshire), she would slow Barack Obama's momentum ahead of the Texas and Ohio showdowns on March 4, and calm the nerves of fans who have been laboring to come up with rationales for why she should be awarded the nomination in the absence of voter approval. If she loses narrowly and essentially splits the 74 Wisconsin delegates with Obama, she can always try to spin it as a comeback and insist that she always knew Wisconsin would be a tough state, that she nearly won even though Obama vastly outspent her, and that she is pleased with where she is in the race.

If Obama wins tonight in cheesehead territory (along with a victory in his native Hawaii), he heads toward Texas and Ohio with a 10-game victory streak and the aura of a winner - which matters in politics, because voters torn between two candidates often are tempted to go with a perceived winner. And if he wins big tonight - in a state, after all, where the demographics would seem to be friendly to Hillary - then he can spin it as further evidence (coupled with Virginia and Maryland last week) that he is steadily broadening his appeal to the greater Democratic electorate.

To gauge his appeal, I plan to check out these demographics, some of which overlap:

White working-class Democrats. They have been loyal to Hillary in most contests thus far, and they're numerous in Wisconsin (in the 2004 Democratic primary, 50 percent of the voters earned less than $50,000 a year), particularly in the old manufacturing towns on the east side of the state. The potential problem for Hillary, however, is that they've suffered heavy job losses and they blame NAFTA for accelerating the exodus of jobs overseas...the same NAFTA that Hillary's husband signed into law. One of the strongest NAFTA critics is Wisconsin Congressman David Obey, who represents a heavily blue-collar district and is stumping his turf heavily for Obama.

(In February 2004, during the Wisconsin primary campaign, I was visiting a laid-off union worker named Gary Miller, in the town of Manitowoc, when his phone rang. Miller's side of the conversation went like this: "Hello?...OK, you should know that our local went out of existence...Yup, a few months ago...The company we worked at is gone, took all the jobs to China and Mexico, we have no members now. We do nothing...Wish I could help you more, sorry." Then Miller hung up. The caller was a John Kerry organizer, looking for labor help.)

Voters who didn't go to, or finish, college. Despite Wisconsin's general reputation as a liberal academic bastion - thanks largely to its university in Madison - it's worth noting that, in the 2004 Democratic primary, 55 percent of the voters did not have a college degree. Hillary has generally outdueled Obama for these voters (although not in Virginia and Maryland), and if she can't hold them in Wisconsin, it will be evidence of further base erosion.

The golden-age voters. Hillary has generally fared better than Obama among seniors (although, again, not last week), and voters over age 65 are expected to comprise roughly 20 percent of the Wisconsin electorate. Supposedly, they would be strongly attracted to Hillary's detailed policy prescriptives for health care and other kitchen-table staples, as practical correctives to Obamamania.

Catholics. Close to 4 in 10 Wisconsin voters are expected to be members of the faith, and Hillary was routinely beating Obama among Catholics until last week. If they tilt to Obama in Wisconsin (or not), it probably wouldn't be attributable to anything he has said (or hasn't said) about religion, because there has been very little faith talk lately on the Democratic side. Catholics will likely be voting on the same grounds as everybody else - with respect to their wallets/pocketbooks, their impressions of the two candidates, and their thoughts about candidate electability.

Then there are the reliable Obama demographics. We all know that young voters will favor Obama; the question is whether they will turn out in greater numbers than before, particularly in the university towns (in the Wisconsin primary four years ago, voters aged 18 to 29 were 11 percent of the elecrorate). We all know that blacks will vote overwhelmingly for Obama in Milwaukee; the question is by how much they will exceed their '04 turnout (six percent of the electorate).

And since Wisconsin's primary is open to all voters, I plan to track the size of the independent turnout, and its share of the total electorate. This too is reliable Obama turf - many of the Wisconsin independents are downstate affluent professionals who commute to Chicago - and they are one big reason why Obama is favored to win. Wisconsin has been a tough state for the Democrats in the last two general elections - Al Gore and John Kerry barely won it in 2000 and 2004 - and a huge independent turnout tonight might provide clues about a candidate's autumn viability.

The Clinton campaign has been working hard to lower expectations in Wisconsin, but I think that Jeff Greenfield, the seasoned CBS political commentator, put it best the other day: "If Clinton cannot rally the beer-drinking Democrats in the state that gave us Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller, where can she?"


As I noted yesterday, the Clinton people apparently assumed they'd wrap up the nomination on Tsunami Tuesday, thereby obviating the need for a Plan B if the race went longer. They never bothered to learn about the complex Texas delegate rules that could work against them on March 4. And now, as we see from this report (hat tip, John Baer), they couldn't even get their act together last week to file a complete slate of delegates for the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Even though the state filing deadline was helpfully extended for a day and a half by their ally-in-chief, Gov. Ed Rendell (official reason for the extension: bad weather), the campaign still came up short by around 10 delegates. By contrast, Obama's camp had no such problems.

For their own sake, while there is still time, the Clinton people might want to shake off the last vestiges of their coronation mentality and focus on nuts and bolts.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dean's muted scream, Mac's new pander

As I noted in my Sunday print column, the Democratic presidential race (barring a miracle breakthrough by either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama) is careening toward a potential train wreck. Space did not permit me to explore an important question:

Are there any party elders, with the requisite clout and nonpartisan credentials, who can step forward to yank the brakes and prevent a derailment? Somebody, anybody, who can propose wise voting criteria for unpledged superdelegates, and who can come up with a solution to the emasculated status of Florida and Michigan?

The roster thins very quickly. Bill Clinton, the titular elder-leader, has a vested interest in the outcome. Al Gore would be suspect no matter what stance he took; if he came up with ideas that seemed to tilt against Hillary, he'd be widely accused of trying to stick it to the Clintons, as payback for the difficult 2000 election and for all the years he vied with Hillary for power and resources in Bill's administration.

What about other national-ticket alumni? John Kerry has already endorsed Obama. John Edwards will endorse somebody, as soon as he cuts a deal to his liking. Joe Lieberman, in the wake of endorsing John McCain, might want to call his convention hotel and make sure his bed isn't in the boiler room. Walter Mondale, landslide loser of '84, has endorsed Hillary. Jimmy Carter, whose clout expired roughly 30 years ago, has not even been available to issue a no comment. And Mike Dukakis...'nuff said.

The only one left - on paper, anyway - is Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. And that's a problem as well. Despite his recent remark that a stalemate in April would trigger the need for "some kind of an arrangement," he has neither the clout, nor the inclination, to take the lead.

The Clinton people have long disliked Dean; four years ago, lest we forget, they scrambled to find an alternative to presidential candidate Dean, and came up with Wesley Clark. So Dean is currently ill-positioned to get the Clinton people to agree to anything. Nor has he tried very hard. After passively allowing the DNC's Rules Committee to strip Florida of all its delegates as punishment for holding a primary too early on the calendar, he said nary a word when the Clintons (after having won the meaningless primary) began to insist that those delegates be seated. And that, in turn, has ticked off the Obama people. All told, even Dean sympathizers say he's not particularly adept at conflict resolution.

In Dean's defense, contemporary party chairmen are generally not viewed as power brokers; they're supposed to be message cheerleaders and money-raisers. The image of the backstage party boss, the guy who knocks heads together, died nearly two generations ago, roughly at the time that power was entrusted to primary voters.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, however, they may soon suffer from this power vacuum at the top. A Clinton-Obama stalemate, a potentially historic rarity, hits the party where it's most vulnerable, and prompts the question:

If the primary voters have had their say, and still there is no nominee, what's supposed to happen next? The Democratic scream might be louder than anything Howard Dean once managed to muster.


Following up on my post last Thursday, John McCain has done it again.

It's a mystery why he keeps getting media plaudits for "sincerity" and "authenticity." Judging by his appearance yesterday on ABC News, it can now be said:

He was for the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes, before he was against it.

In the midst of his "no new taxes" pledge yesterday, he ridiculed the idea that taxes should be raised on the wealthy. He did this by mocking the people who complain about the wealthy:

"Oh, yes, sure, 'the wealthy, the wealthy.' Always be interested in when people talk about who the, quote, 'wealthy' are in America. I find it interesting." For emphasis, he gestured with his middle and index fingers, tracing quote marks to underscore his use of the word.

Yet here's what McCain was saying just a few years ago: "I won't take every last dime of the (budget) surplus and spend it on tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy." He used to laud his Republican hero, Teddy Roosevelt, for having railed against "the malefactors of great wealth," a line that McCain quoted approvingly. He used to say that the federal government should have a major role in policing "the abuses or potential abuses of the capitalist system." He twice voted against the Bush tax cuts, because, as he told NBC, "you will find that the bulk of it, again, goes to wealthiest Americans."

But now he has again amended his authenticity in the pursuit of power. The latest version of John McCain needs to curry favor with the GOP establishment in order to cement his nomination. And there's no way that a Republican can be a nominee in good standing unless he stands up for the rich.


By the way, here is further evidence of why Hillary is in so much trouble. According to this report, her top strategists only discovered this month that the complex rules in Texas might yield her an insufficient number of delegates in crucial Latino districts on March 4, thereby imperiling her latest firewall.

These rules have been in force for two decades, yet Hillary's people have just learned about them?

An ABC News reporter today asked Hillary's top two spinners about the Texas delegate rules, and the perils of coming up short on the delegate count...and they were both flummoxed. It should be noted that Howard Wolfson and Phil Singer, at least publicly, are not known to be flummoxed by anything.

ABC's David Chalian: "I'm asking would you consider it a victory if you don't win the delegate allocation in Texas that night?"

Wolfson: "Ummm, you know, I'd have to think about that. I don't know the answer to that."

Chalian: "Okay, thank you."

Wolfson: "That is a, ah, less than unequivocal, but I don't know, Phil, do you have a thought on that?"

Singer: "Umm, no."

Wolfson: "You've stumped us. The last question has stumped us."

This tells us something very important: Hillary was so confident of winning the nomination on Tsunami Tuesday that she and her strategists didn't think there was any need to focus on the subsequent states, or do the fundamental homework for a Plan B. Such are the perils of political hubris.

And with respect to the latest CNN poll in Texas, I have two words for the Clinton camp: Uh oh...