The Clinton campaign has made it clear that it is looking ahead to the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas. Even before it lost Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska on Saturday, campaign officials were telling the press that they are effectively conceding everything between Super Tuesday and March 4.
This is a smart move in at least one respect: expectations. The press has a bad habit of not making much of victories unless they are unexpected — if Obama wins by 20 points in three states he was “supposed” to win, there’s little talk of momentum even a day and a half later. So Clinton won’t be hurt if she loses all of the remaining states before March 4–Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Hawaii, and Wisconsin–but she will receive a lot of positive press if she somehow wins one of them. (She lost the Maine caucus on Sunday.)
As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that the Obama campaign doesn’t really play this game. It doesn’t try to manage expectations in the way the Clinton campaign does, which means that Obama is often in a disadvantageous position in the media narrative (a situation mitigated by the fact that the media seems to like him more than it likes Clinton). But to the Obama campaign’s credit, it seemed to have realized that expectations don’t really matter to everyday voters. With the exception of New Hampshire, where voters grew tired of the media’s attempts to bury the Clintons and the Clinton era, voters don’t seem to care what happened in the states before them and how that fits into some grand story being told by Tim Russert and Chris Matthews. They just want a chance to evaluate the candidates and make their own decisions.
Back on point. Is the Clinton strategy of waiting until Texas and Ohio a smart one? I doubt it. It too closely mirrors Rudy Giuliani’s Florida strategy. Giuliani could shake as many hands as he wanted in Florida, but the media coverage about the campaign had him losing state after state after state. He was like a boxer who took blows to the head for four rounds and expected to score a knockout in the fifth. It didn’t happen. If Obama sweeps everything between Feb 5 and March 4, he’ll have won LA, NE, WA, ME, MD, VA, DC, HI, and WI. Doesn’t that reduce Clinton to Rudy 2.0?