"You know, Sen. Clinton is more favored in Pennsylvania,” he added, “and I'm right now a little more favored in North Carolina, so Indiana right now may end up being the tiebreaker."
The "tiebreaker" comment has been seized upon, which has tended to put even more emphasis on Indiana. In retrospect, probably not terribly smart politically for Obama to raise the bar on one state, especially when you possess all the "it's over" arguments. With that said, there is really no reason why Obama can't win Indiana, when you add up the intangibles, the demographics, it really is a "fair" state for both sides.
If you look at the polls, you see a statistical deadheat, no sense that one side has any real advantage heading into the final 10 days of campaigning. What I am saying, there are no built-in excuses for either campaign, no rational reason to not see Indiana as competitive and telling.
Should Obama win in North Carolina and Indiana May 6, Clinton will be forced to drop out, it's just that simple. Should Clinton win Indiana and keep it relatively close in North Carolina, then the emerging concerns about Obama are elevated, fair agreement that we enter a real period of unknown.
I was struck by Howard Dean's recent comments, which represent a clear departure from his pre-Penn rhetoric:
The Democrats’ national chairman, Howard Dean, told The Financial Times in an article on Friday: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”h/t Wise Law Blog
Dean basically acknowledges that the last "six or eight races" will gel "perception" about who is best suited to lead the Democrats. Who can win, as opposed to who has pledged delegates, who has popular vote. As pointed out in the link, Dean does Clinton a favor with this frame. On the other hand, as I've said all along, Obama just needs to win some crucial primaries in the last half of this primary season to end all the debate, his fate is very much in his own hands.
If the debate becomes one of electability, recent history would tend to favor Obama, the perception that he can draw independents, expand the Democrats base. As we move forward, that earlier truth is becoming less apparent, the earlier Obama advantage looks largely muted. Gallup has the race tied, with Clinton actually doing better in the head to head with McCain, for the first time that I can remember. A recent Newsweek poll, which had Obama up 19 points a week ago, is down to 7, with some concerning internals for Obama. Even more concerning, Obama's appeal to independents appears on the wane, no real advantage over Clinton:
Obama vs McCain:
Independents 45-43 for Obama
Clinton vs McCain:
Independents 45-44 for McCain
The supposed strong suit, appeal to the mushy middle, isn't really an advantage. Couple that fact with a growing problem with white voters, a disturbing racial pattern, and you may see cause for concern. Important to remember that African American voters make up a much larger percentage of Democratic primary voters, than they do a general election, nevermind the fact that in many states, the high population come in firm RED terrority.
That's the backdrop, which does lend credence to the Indiana as "tiebreaker" idea. It really provides an excellent opportunity for Obama to quell the concerns, secure the nomination, move forward. There are no real excuses, Obama has many advantages that work in his favor, enough to counter the pro-Hillary state argument. Indiana is a good measure, and I put more faith in a result there, than I do all the spin coming from both camps. Win Indiana, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania are forgotten, Obama seals the deal. Lose Indiana, delegates aside, one has to wonder what is happening, the inevitable one losing key contest after key contest to Mrs. "No Chance". That's ridiculous on every level, there is no reason why Obama shouldn't win, no reason to fluff off the later voters as somehow irrelevant.
Knock her out, or give Clinton life, ultimately Obama controls the narrative. No excuses, no spin, just win Indiana. Seems a reasonable frame, and really there is no reason why the supposed presumptive nominee shouldn't win, in a state that oozes "fair contest".