Level Up, annotated

In Andy’s rebuttal to my first post in the Blogagauntlet, he said:

Taylor, old white financial managers called. They want their copy of the Atlantic back.

This trash talk notwithstanding, I’m about to link to a couple of Atlantic bloggers because Matt Yglesias points out here that Marc Ambinder agrees with me:

The data from last night suggests that voters believe that Hillary Clinton’s argument about Barack Obama’s general election viability will remain valid until Obama renders it invalid.

Matt counters that on the whole, Dems who are divided now will still pretty much vote Dem in November, so the states won or lost by these primary coalitions are a bad barometer for making projections about the general election, thus undermining Clinton’s argument. On one level this is reassuring because I want Obama to win, but I’m not wholly convinced. Explanations why (and a hilariously awkward Chris Matthews clip!) after the jump.

Within the scope of 2008, I’m with Matt. Obama is the likely and preferable nominee, and whomever the nominee is will likely and preferably take the White House. Schisms now will be old news in the fall. But within the scope of the primary, Obama has to turn that first likely into a definite, and this is where Ambinder’s (and my) initial point is valid.

Even if using primary results as a bellwether for the general election is logically flawed, a lot of people will do it anyway because they don’t think about it as hard as a professional blogger for the Atlantic. Add to this the fact that in the 24/7 echo chamber of cable news, pundits and hosts are expected to overanalyze every minor event to the point of absurdity, and I think you’ve got a pretty compelling reason to think Obama has to win Indiana to prevent the media narrative from slipping further away from him. This is why I say Obama has two weeks to step his game up (although to be entirely fair, the demos in IN make it a pretty even playing field, so his game might do just fine as it is).

Think about it: all Obama had to do to become the frontrunner was break Hillary’s veneer of inevitability. Now that Obama is the frontrunner, breaking his veneer of inevitability is all Hillary has to do to keep the race alive. If the media treats IN as a narrative fulcrum or the remaining superdelegates take it as a litmus test, the fact that he still has all the metrics on his side could mean less than the general perception that he can’t seal the deal. If he lands both states, the one-sentence spin is that his campaign has reached critical mass and Clinton looks desperate; if she takes Indiana, the one-sentence spin is that she’s stayin’ alive and the primary drags on without a decisive upcoming vote until superdelegates have trickled in.

Can you even imagine what filling that much airtime would do to cable news personalities? My God, they’d devolve into bizarre fits of socially inappropriate on-screen behavior…


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