Good for Hillary Clinton, good news for Dems

Daily News – by Michael Goodwin – March 5th, 2008 

The red phone rang and Hillary Clinton was there to answer it. Yes she can!

Yes, she can keep going. Yes, she can win.

Clinton has not only earned the right to keep fighting for the nomination. She has a duty to. Cracks are showing in Barack Obama‘s campaign and he looks mortal and, dare I say it, almost ordinary. He picked a lousy time to get off his game.

Clinton can take much of the credit. Her ringing phone ad about her experience in a time of crisis was a gamble, but it paid off. Say the word telephone and the ad comes to mind. That’s a smashing political success.

So, too, was her hammering on Obama’s consistency and her complaints he had escaped media scrutiny. Those themes came together Sunday and Monday and helped save her dream. He may still have the hope, but she got the votes.

She finally found a formula that worked. She would be a fool to do anything else from now on.

She had two goals yesterday and achieved them both. She had to stop Obama’s string of 12 popular vote victories and she did that with double-digit bangs in Ohio and Rhode Island.

She also had to cut into his delegate lead, which she did. One estimate had her picking up a net gain of perhaps 20 or more. When the close Texas count finishes, he will probably have a reduced lead of fewer than 100. With more than 900 delegates still uncommitted, her climb is not nearly as steep as it was.

Unless she won something last night, she had no argument for going forward. Now no one can reasonably say she shouldn’t.

The fight is good for the party. If Obama can’t knock her out, he shouldn’t be the nominee.

I said two days ago that Obama was facing his third chance to do that. Twice before he failed – in New Hampshire and on Super Tuesday. Yesterday makes three failures and that could mean three strikes against him. Voters are increasingly unwilling to commit to him.

The finding by exit polls, for example, that late deciders in Texas and Ohio went heavily for Clinton is revealing.

Monday was one of the worst days on the trail for him, with a tainted contributor starting a corruption trial in Chicago, and the emergence of evidence that his campaign repeatedly lied about what an aide told Canadian officials on his trade policies.

Obama’s effort to explain away those issues turned into a debacle, with him finally giving up at a press conference and walking away from shouted questions. He looked like an ordinary pol on the hot seat instead of the party savior who strides the stage in front of thousands of adoring Obamamaniacs.

The scene was striking. There’s blood in the water now and it’s all his. It won’t be the last time.

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