Leading article: Seven days that made a nominee, if not yet a United States President

Share
Related Topics

When the history of this absorbing US presidential election comes to be written, the past week may be seen as pivotal. For the Republicans, John McCain clinched the nomination and yesterday won the endorsement of Mitt Romney, the man initially thought to be his chief rival. But it is on the Democratic side that the most dramatic shift has taken place. Hillary Clinton can no longer claim to be the front-runner, and for the first time serious doubt is being cast on her ability to win the nomination.

In part, the shift is about delegate numbers – but it is not only about numbers. It is also about momentum and mood. The role of "super-delegates" at the Democratic convention means that Mrs Clinton could prevail there even if the numbers are close. That assumes, however, that she retains the support of the party establishment and her machine is capable of going into overdrive. Neither is now at all certain.

Barack Obama won this week's so-called Potomac primaries by even more impressive margins than forecast. And while the Obama camp rejoiced, Mrs Clinton was trying to retune her supposedly invincible machine. She is said to be having difficulty raising money – and she will need enormous sums if she has to fight right through to the convention. For Mr Obama, it is not only that his unexpectedly strong showing has bred fundraising success, but it is also that his grass-roots fundraising operations have shown themselves to be flexible and responsive. As the campaign powers on, his many small donors are proving more reliable than the – perhaps now wavering – big corporations.

And the mood in the two camps could hardly be more different. As Mr Obama allows himself ever more lofty flights of rhetoric, Mrs Clinton is casting around for a new message to stall Mr Obama's rousing promise of "change". As he wins more converts by the day – including Republicans unhappy with their own party's choice – Mrs Clinton suffers only defections. Somehow she will have to reverse this tide if her campaign is to retain its credibility.

With the Republican nomination decided, however, many of the Democratic primary voters' calculations have altered. They are no longer weighing the competing merits of their two candidates as potential presidents, but considering which has the better chance of beating Mr McCain. And whereas the presidential advantage probably lies with Mrs Clinton, the electoral advantage belongs to Mr Obama. The depth of hatred of Mrs Clinton among right-wing Republicans would unite the party around Mr McCain to "stop Hillary". Against Mr Obama, Mr McCain could count on no such solidarity. If Democrats want to win back the White House – which they surely do – it is Mr Obama who has the better chance of doing so.

The race is by no means over for Mrs Clinton. Having lost the clutch of primaries on Tuesday, she won the caucuses in the small state of New Mexico two days later, suggesting that her support among Hispanic voters has held up. This could be crucial on 4 March when Texas and Ohio hold their primaries. And Mr Obama is still in many respects an unknown quantity. Unpleasant surprises cannot be excluded, if primary voters allow themselves to be carried away by his inspirational gifts without considering also soundness and substance.

Increasingly, however, it looks as though Barack Obama's chief distinction resides in being the very opposite of the tongue-tied and polarising ideologue who currently occupies the White House, and presenting himself as a man of the future, not the past. That he may have victory within his grasp is the realisation that has crystallised at the end of this decisive week.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions