When the dust had settled after Super Tuesday, Barack Obama and
Hillary Rodham Clinton were locked in a dead heat for the Democratic
Since then, over the past two weeks, Senator Obama has gone on a
tear, winning 10 straight primaries and caucuses, and forcing
Senator Clinton's back to the wall. Obama now leads the former first
lady by almost every conceivable measure - total delegates, total
popular vote, national polls, and finances.
What happened? On Clinton's part, her straits represent a massive
failure of planning and organization, analysts say. Her campaign
operated on the assumption she would have the nomination effectively
locked up with the 22 contests on Feb. 5, and it spent accordingly.
The lack of a Plan B has left her scrambling for cash and organizing
late in the post-Super Tuesday contests.
That this is happening to the Clintons - until this campaign, a
team skilled like no other in Democratic politics in running and
winning elections - has left the political world dumbfounded. But
even the senator's supporters see how one faulty, central assumption
can lead to disaster.
"If an entire campaign strategy is framed around the belief that
a particular date will be decisive, and if in the face of contrary
evidence you find it difficult to abandon that assumption, then it's
possible to be very smart and experienced and still be caught
short," says William Galston, a former senior adviser to President
Clinton who backs Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Obama, in contrast, has put together a team that appears to work
well together, and has fashioned and executed a game plan
skillfully, Mr. Galston says.
"People are going to be writing about his campaign for a long
time, as a textbook of how to take advantage of changing
circumstances - and to leverage your strengths while muting your
weaknesses," says Galston, now a senior fellow of governance at the
Brookings Institution in Washington.
The stark contrast in how the campaigns have unfolded raises an
inevitable question: Do they indicate how each of the candidates
would operate as president? For Clinton, whose own husband is
telling voters she has to win both Texas and Ohio on March 4 to
remain viable, the question is acute. As she vows to voters that she
would be ready to lead the nation from Day 1, are they noticing the
failings in the largest enterprise she has ever run?
Probably not. At the same time, Obama's skill in putting together
a team, and foreseeing and planning for a long campaign, may not
tell the public much about how he would operate as president. …