Tonight’s Story Line

Story lines in this election have been determined as often by timing as by actual events. Two weeks ago, networks called Barack Obama’s win in North Carolina hours before they called Clinton’s Indiana win, producing wishy-washy headlines like NBC’s “CLINTON THE ‘APPARENT’ WINNER IN INDIANA.” Or remember how people referred to Clintons’ “double-digit” Pennsylvania win, only to discover the next day that she’d actually won by 9.2 points . Or in Nevada, where we learned late in the game that Obama had somehow won more delegates than Clinton.

Tonight’s timing is especially favorable to Clinton. Kentucky results start coming in at 7 p.m. ET, while Oregon results don’t appear until 11 p.m. ET. That leaves four hours for what’s expected to be a Clinton thumping to sink in.

If Oregon came first, the narrative would be, Obama racks up another slew of pledged delegates—can Clinton make a last stand in Kentucky? But since it’s the other way around, it will be, Clinton trounces Obama once again among white working-class voters—has Obama improved at all since West Virginia? Clinton’s speech in Louisville, Ky., will have a victory to back it up, whereas Obama won’t have decisive results until after he’s done speechifying in Des Moines.

That’s not to say the order of the primaries will determine the outcome of the nomination. In the grand scheme, Obama’s weakness among blue-collar voters isn’t as drastic as Clinton’s current weakness among elected delegates. But thanks to the international-time-zone system, Clinton gets to set the tone for the night.