This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Democratic presidential nomination is now Sen. Barack Obama's to lose. That's the view of some political experts after watching Obama pull off a big victory against Hillary Clinton in the North Carolina primary on Tuesday and nearly upset her in Indiana where Clinton was a heavy favorite.
Though Clinton has vowed to continue her campaign, these political experts say nothing short of a major bombshell will prevent Obama from winning the nomination.
"He's likely to be the nominee unless some kind of blockbuster revelation about him should surface, something about his personal life, for instance, something like the Rev. Wright situation but bigger" says Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire and an expert on presidential campaigns.
"Some knowledge that we don't have about him could change the equation, but it's hard to imagine what that would be."
Likewise, political scientists Terry Jones and David Robertson of the University of Missouri at St. Louis both predicted that Obama was on his way to victory in the absence of a surprising politically damaging development.
Given that both Obama and Clinton have won about the same number of popular votes, some say the Democratic Party is facing a serious dilemma. If Obama wins the nomination, some women and working-class whites might not support him; and if Clinton is anointed the winner, blacks will feel the election was stolen from them. Some, such as former Democratic congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, have even suggested that the best solution would be an Obama-Clinton ticket in the fall. Jones, for one, pans the idea, saying a running mate is the one issue over which the presidential nominee has about 95 percent control. So far, Obama hasn't suggested that Clinton would be his choice for vice president.
So why is Clinton still in the race? Jones likened her situation to the 7th inning of a baseball game. "You've already invested a great deal in this and there's still an outside chance. The cost of staying in isn't that high. So why not go for one more round or a couple of rounds" in the event of "a major gaffe by your opponent."
Jones and Robertson think that the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will die down at least until the fall campaign. Moreover, they believe Obama will be able to unite the party even though some women and working-class Democrats will be disappointed if Clinton is forced to drop out.
"If Obama wins the nomination, Clinton would serve a major role in his campaign and he would consult with her," Jones predicts. "I don't see that many supporters of Sen. Clinton bolting the Democratic Party because their candidate didn't win."
Scala predicts that reality will set in for Clinton by the end of the month.
“What we’ll see is the national media leaders make up their minds that this is over” (for Clinton), Scala said. “The superdelegates will reach the same conclusion in the next two weeks. We’ll see the reality dawn on them. It’s a difficult decision for Clinton to stop after this. She felt the nomination was hers.”
Do you think Hillary Clinton should drop out now?