Momentum Makes a Comeback

It’s been more than a year since Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced their exploratory committees. Ever since, Democrats across the country have been dragged through 19 debates, $200 million-plus in fundraising, and 40 primaries and caucuses. After tens of thousands of handshakes, thousands of stump speeches, and hundreds of meet-and-greets, Democrats are tired. They want one candidate—and that candidate is going to be Barack Obama.

We don’t have to look any further than Texas and Ohio to see the exhaustion firsthand. Rasmussen polls had him down by 16 points in Texas eight days ago (post-Potomac, pre-Wisconsin). Now he trails by only three points . The newest Washington Post /ABC News poll shows that Texans like Clinton more than Obama on the issues that matter most—health care and the economy. Yet he’s in a statistical tie with her overall. Why? Because 47 percent of the state’s Democrats believe he has the best chance of getting elected president in November—thirty-six percent say that’s the case for Clinton. In Ohio, there’s an even larger disparity between whom Ohioans favor—Clinton—and whom they think can win in NovemberObama.  

For all of the talk about the primary fight going all the way to the election, it was probably never possible—especially not once a Republican nominee was selected. The two electorates originally treated the candidates as they would shiny toys—with wide-eyed attention, which then faded to boredom. But once the Republicans decided on their favorite (not so new) toy, the Democrats realized playtime was over. Electability was bound to rule the decision-making once the GOP forced the Dems’ hand, and Obama effectively spun his head-to-head poll numbers into momentum. Remember momentum? It used to be that useless, easily derided metric because it was so unreliable while both races were unsettled. Now it’s likely to decide the nomination.

John McCain was more or less confirmed as the nominee on Feb. 7, the day Mitt Romney dropped out of the race. Since then, Obama hasn’t lost a single contest. That’s partly coincidence—he was always going to do well in Louisiana and Midwest caucuses—and partly Clinton’s post-Feb. 5 ineptitude in not organizing her ground game appropriately. But there was one other factor: Democrats realized they were SOL if they didn’t unite around one candidate to stop McCain. Over the last two weeks, Barack Obama was that guy because he had more votes, more delegates, and more money.

Which brings us to today—on the verge of Texas and Ohio. At this point, Obama’s momentum leads to Clinton supporters’ resignation. Texas and Ohio Democrats could prolong this battle, but they’re tired of not knowing who the nominee will be. The Democrats want what the Republicans already have—a candidate they can call their own. If that means some Democrats have to go to bed with their second-best, then so be it.