Friday 22 February 2008

Has Hillary blown it?

Last night's Texas debate set few hearts racing. Meanwhile, the polls suggest that Hillary's Texas and Ohio leads are being cut to single digits, although she is still strong in Pennsylvania. But it is looking increasingly likely that Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate come November. Yet the result may not be the Democratic triumph that the current polls suggest. As Gerard Baker points out in a characteristically caustic assessment in today's Times, the comments by Michelle Obama this week about her lack of pride in America until her husband starting winning primaries do not bode well for a full-on fight with the Republican attack machine. Not that John McCain hasn't got his own problems. But one strength that Hillary had was her careful positioning over several years on a range of issues that had previously turned off potential voters. To be fair, Obama has been as careful to cultivate churchgoers as Clinton, abandoning the astonishing ineptitude of the Kerry campaign in 2004. But the winning of independents in caucuses in not the same as winning independents in the general election; and it is not clear that the Obama campaign recognises this yet or the pitfalls that await them. Hillary may defy the pollsters - as, to be fair, she did in California and New Hampshire - and regain a much bigger lead in Texas and Ohio (at least postal votes may help there). Unless she does, her husband is right to conclude that she will have blown her chance of becoming the first woman president in the United States.

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