Obama loses in South Dakota

With only ten percent of the vote counted in South Dakota, Fox News has already declared Hillary Clinton the winner. South Dakota is the kind of state in which Barack Obama was rolling to victory (albeit mostly in caucuses) just a few months ago; in fact, polls showed Obama ahead in South Dakota not long ago. The fact that he cannot defeat Clinton there, even when voters realize that Clinton has essentially no chance at winning the nomination, is further evidence of Obama’s substantial recent slippage. Specifically, it is evidence of his slippage among white voters, such as the ones who were carrying him to victory in Iowa and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest

This doesn’t mean that Obama won’t be serviceable candidate; he may well be serviceable and that may be all the Democrats need this year. But there is certainly reason for the Democrats to be concerned.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton has just declared that she has made no decision about whether to remain in the race. She said that, in the coming days, she will consider what course to take. In doing so she will consult with party leaders. She also encouraged her supporters to visit her website and weigh in. One can imagine that the advice she receives won’t come exclusively from her supporters.

The decision may not be an easy one. The party leaders presumably will advise her to quit the race, and that appeal may resonate. Yet, it’s not clear that bowing out now is in her interests. Staying in the campaign will not be very expensive now that the priimaries are over. And Obama may be one or two damaging YouTubes away from becoming borderline unviable. Nor is the risk of further alienating her party an overwhelming concern. Clinton probably can undo whatever further damage staying in the race will cause by graciously bowing out in a month and then hitting the campaign trail big-time for Obama, if that’s her pleasure.

Meanwhile, it’s her pleasure to hang in for at least a little while and to leave them guessing.

JOHN adds: Rumor has it–again, as far as I know it is only a rumor–that the Michelle Obama “whitey” tape may be made public tomorrow. I have no idea whether such a tape exists, and it may be that Hillary doesn’t, either. But it’s easy to understand why she thinks it’s still possible that superdelegates may change their minds.

PAUL adds: Of the three speeches given by the candidates tonight, I thought Clinton’s easily was the best. And, sad to say, I thought McCain’s was the worst, at least in terms of delivery, “production values,” and probably overall impact. In terms of substance, McCain is making progress, but the other stuff can’t be ignored.

I’ve argued that, for McCain, less splash can be more, and he certainly doesn’t want to try and match Obama in the flash department. But neither does he want to come across as canned or listless.

McCain is excellent in a conversational mode and decent in full speech mode. Tonight he seemed to be somewhere in between, and at times it wasn’t pretty.

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