What to look for on Crucial Tuesday

This is the decisive moment of the campaign. President Clinton asserted last week, with no denial from Hillary, that his wife must win both Texas and Ohio if she is to win the nomination. Barack Obama must win at least one of those two major states to maintain his momentum and likely win the nomination.

For Hillary, winning all four would change the campaign around and stop the Obama momentum. This scenario is highly unlikely. Winning three of four (Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island) remains possible for Clinton, but the margin of victory will determine whether she will make significant gains in the delegate count and the degree of traction she will get. Nonetheless, it would be a favorable reversal of fortune for the Clinton campaign.

Should Obama win two of four (Texas or Ohio and Vermont), he maintains his momentum and will probably gain more super-delegates in the process. A split would mean that Obama would have won 26 states to 10 states for Clinton since Super Tuesday on February 5, to go along with a significant majority of popular vote. Given Obama's successful fundraising operations, it would therefore be unlikely Hillary could make it through March. Should Obama win both Texas and Ohio, however, I believe Hillary will either withdraw either on March 4 itself or later in the week.

Right now polls are tight in both Texas and Ohio. Obama’s success since early January has transformed most of the numbers – which used to favour of Clinton – to his side. That in itself is quite an achievement. His last two performances in the face to face debates showed us a candidate with more poise and assurance. His exchanges in the last week with both John McCain and Hillary Clinton also showed a candidate able to take on tough issues and challenges, and respond in kind.

Clinton’s attacks of late have been very aggressive and she seems to have shown that ‘going negative’ works to some extent. Obama has done well in the circumstances, but it is evident more than ever that we are witnessing ‘old versus new’ politics in the last 15 days. So, this Tuesday is the crucial moment for both campaigns and for the Democrats as a party. If Obama’s message triumphs in at least one of the big states on Tuesday, it is over. The moment for withdrawal will then be left for Clinton to decide. One thing is certain, this race is approaching a tipping point where the Democrats, despite their enormous primary season success, will become vulnerable to the Republican ticket. Crucial Tuesday may finally clear the picture and point the way to November.

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