One point about Hillary Clinton’s dire situation hasn’t received enough attention: her need to win both the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4. A split-decision next Tuesday will be as damaging to her campaign as two defeats. Today’s Real Clear Politics average of the latest polls shows Clinton 8 points ahead of Obama in Ohio and 1.5 points behind in Texas. Polls in both states have shifted in Obama’s direction over the past week. According to Marc Ambinder, Clinton’s advisors now “figure that a loss in Texas is as likely as a win in Ohio.”
To put this problem of needing two big victories in military terms, Clinton’s position is like an army that needs to stretch its forces to defend the entirety of a long front, facing an opponent that can mass its troops for an assault on the point of its choosing. The similarity to Robert Lee vs. Ulysses Grant becomes stronger considering that Obama, like Grant, has more troops and more firepower. His campaign organization has shown itself to be more nimble and disciplined than hers over the past 8 weeks. He spent five times as much as she did on television advertising in Wisconsin. His financial advantage over the next week will be smaller than that but still considerable. With that advantage Obama can put extra ads on the air in Texas, if that continues to look more promising, while spending enough in Ohio to pin Clinton down there and prevent her from shifting resources to Texas.
Facing this tactical challenge, Hillary’s army in not only running low on bullets but, as you would expect after losing 11 straight battles, suffering morale problems. Patrick Healy reported in the New York Times that some Clinton campaign staffers are “burning out.” Some have “taken to going home early — 9 p.m. — turning off their BlackBerrys, and polishing off bottles of wine,” he writes, while others “have taken several days off, despite it being crunch time.” Mike Allen and John Harris reinforce that point in today’s Politico, portraying a campaign team “consumed with frustration and finger-pointing” that has “slipped into full recriminations mode.” The campaign has become “a grim slog,” they write.
Military history teaches that most tactical dilemmas are begotten by strategic blunders. We’ll give Michael Barone the last word on Hillary’s: “The way Clinton has run her campaign – like the way she ran health care reform in 1993-94 – undercuts her claim to be ready for the presidency from day one. In both cases, she had no fallback strategy, no Plan B, in case her best-case scenario failed to come to pass.”