In Like a Lion

After stumbling through this primary season for what seems like eons (but was really just a month), Hillary Clinton finally realized her potential in Ohio tonight.

Precincts are still reporting their results, but all signs point to Clinton ramming Obama’s bandwagon. Polling averages showed Obama pulling within six points of Clinton, yet she leads by three times that margin with more than half of the precincts reporting. (Returns from presumably Obama-friendly Cuyahoga County are still streaming in.) A margin that wide could yield some real delegate gains—35 pledged delegates, according to our estimates .  

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s not forget that Hillary’s win only means she did what she was supposed to. She was always supposed to win Ohio because the majority of Democratic voters are working-class, economy-minded, NAFTA-hating Americans. Fifty-eight percent of Ohio voters said the economy was the most important issue, according to CNN . Obama’s strong suit has never been the economy , and having his top economic adviser say that Obama’s economic stances are all political stagecraft didn’t help his cause, either. That’s not to say she didn’t bring home the bacon when it mattered most—but she certainly didn’t cook it all by herself.

For Hillary, this is just the beginning. It doesn’t get any easier as we plow toward Pennsylvania, no matter how many times narratives flip for her by tomorrow morning. Saturday brings Wyoming’s caucuses, where she’ll probably lose to Obama’s track record in the Great Plains caucuses. Next is Mississippi, where 37 percent of the population is black. That’s another Obama win waiting to bloom.  

Neither state is particularly important delegate-wise, but they will hold some sway because after Mississippi there are 42 days without a primary. The candidates will stage a biblical assault on Pennsylvania’s 44,000 square miles of blue-collar workers, New York transplants, and tortured sports fans. Clinton will need to focus every moment of her time on Pennsylvania, because it’s the beginning of a grueling state where she’ll need an average margin of victory of 26 points to catch Obama’s pledged delegate lead if the scenario above comes to pass. Anything below that 26-point mark in Pennsylvania would be crippling to her chances to catch him in pledged delegates.

But perhaps we’re post-pledged at this point in the campaign. There’s already word that Clinton’s mini-momentum spike may stem a flood of superdelegates to Obama . Clinton may not need to catch Obama in pledged delegates anymore. Now she needs to focus on convincing superdelegates that they want to back the candidate who wins big, blue states, not small, red ones. That’s still a tough sell when she’ll fall short on pledged delegates.

Clinton is off to a roaring start to the new month, but in the end, she’s still likely to go out like a lamb.