THE FRONTRUNNER….So what’s the state of play in the Democratic race after last night? Things could still go either way, but unquestionably Hillary now has a pretty serious uphill climb. Obama has shown a very strong ability to make up ground on Hillary if he’s got time and money to devote to a state (even in the big states he lost on Super Tuesday, he did about 10 points better than polls had shown a few weeks earlier), and he now has that. He gets to concentrate on Wisconsin for a few days, and then has two full weeks to work on Texas and Ohio, followed by another few weeks to concentrate on Pennsylvania. And if Josh Green is to be believed, Hillary’s campaign burned through money at such a fantastic clip earlier this year that even with her current fundraising going well she’s still way behind Obama.

So Obama has time and money. He’s got momentum. And he’s now demonstrated an ability to appeal to the demographic groups that were supposed to be Hillary’s firewall in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Hillary won’t make it easy — and, yes, weird stuff can happen at any time in a campaign — but is there any question that Obama is now the frontrunner?

And one other thing: as I said the other day, if the race ends up in a dead heat going into the convention, then superdelegates should be free to vote for whoever they want to. But if Obama is ahead by more than, say, 200 delegates or so, the people really have spoken. Hillary would risk fracturing the party if she then tried to pull out a victory by holding floor fights over Michigan and Florida and twisting arms to get a lopsided win among the supers. Let’s all pray it doesn’t come to that.

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