The Rocky Democratic Primary

The Democratic presidential campaign is now looking like a Rocky film. Any Rocky film. Both participants are bloodied. Both have hit the canvas more than once. Both have landed powerful blows and both have taken them. The partisans of each are in a frenzy. But only one of them is Rocky. The question is: who?

Senator Barack Obama remains the frontrunner. He has more delegates and has received more votes than his opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton. And while the uproar over his minister’s outrageous statements knocked him down, his speech in Philadelphia seems to have brought him back to his feet, at least among Democrats nationally according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. The poll shows Senators Clinton and Obama tied nationally among Democrats. The poll also shows that the long running boxing match known as the Democratic primaries is hurting the standing of both candidates among voters.

Yet while Senator Obama has the strongest claim to crumpled crown, it is Senator Clinton who is likely to earn the right to a Rocky-like sprint up those stairs in Philadelphia. She maintains a double digit lead in all the recent surveys for the April 22nd primary in Pennsylvania. Her campaign will tout this as proof that: 1) her comeback is complete; 2) only she can win in November; and 3) Senator Obama’s troubles have doomed his campaign.

The reailty is different, however. She is unlikely to make much headway against Senator Obama’s lead among delegates (CNN has Senator Obama with 1,622 delegates to Senator Clinton’s 1,485). Nor is she likely to overtake him in the popular vote (where he holds a 700,000+ vote lead, not counting the Florida and Michigan primaries — although even counting those tainted elections Senator Obama still out-polls Senator Clinton by approximately 100,000 votes).  

Of course, in political reality trumps real world reality every time. So if Senator Clinton’s team can sell the media — and if the media can sell the super delegates — that a win in Pennsylvania leaves only Senator Clinton standing in the ring, the actual delegate count won’t really matter.

However, her victory dance may be short. The next major round, two weeks later, are the primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. Senator Obama should win in North Carolina, where polls show him with a double digit lead. And while there are few polls for Indiana, those tend to show the Hoosier state it going to Senator Obama. If he lands this combination blow, the Obama campaign will proclaim they are proof that: 1) he has been and remains the true chamption; 2) only he can win in November; and 2) Senator Clinton’s campaign is doomed.

Yet, Senator Clinton is likely to pick herself up and continue the contest through Oregon and West Virginia and on to through Kentucky to Puerto Rico. The gladiators will continue to pound away at each other. Both candidates will hit the canvas again only to unsteadily rise to their feet. Come the Democratic convention this August in Denver they could both be punch drunk, battered and bruised, but still in the ring.

In the end, only one of them will get the nomination. Only one will be Rocky. Whoever it is, is going to need some bed rest, aspirin, and bandaids before the general election. And a raw steak for the black eyes couldn’t hurt.

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