Matthew Cooper, now at Conde Nast Portfolio, has a very smart and sober take on South Carolina, the Clintons and Sen. Obama:
As sweeping as the South Carolina win was, if Obama continues to get a quarter of the white vote, 80 percent of the black vote and little Hispanic support he’s going to lose. At the moment, there’s nothing in the polling to indicate that the Hispanic support for Hillary is fading. And the class-age-gender dynamic–with downscale whites and disproportionate numbers of women backing Hillary while the affluent, the young and men back Obama in greater numbers–favors her over the long run. (Women vote in rgeater numbers than men so do the math.) She’s the house. Think of it as Blackjack. He just won a great hand. Over time, the odds are distinctly in her favor.
Of course, it can change. Maybe Obama will crack the Hispanic code. He made an appeal to Latino voters in his acceptance speech. But Hillary has some key proxies like Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Mayor Anothony Villaraigosa in Los Angele stumping for her. And the Kennedy endorsement will help. But it’s his challenge at this point. If I had to guess what happens a week from tomorrow, she’ll rack up more than half the delegates and take California, Arizona and New Mexico as well as her home base states like New York and New Jersey. His best shot is in the states with more African Americans which is why you saw him in Macon, Georgia yesterday. She’s got a better shot in Tennessee, Oklahoma and her native Arkansas.
Edwards slide continues to help her. While he’s much more likely to endorse Obama and his campaign team deeply dislikes the Clintons, his voters come out of Hillary’s trough. As he fades–and he seems sure to fade–those downscale voters will tend to go towards Hillary.
I’m not sure if all the venom towards the Clinton is justified. The former president’s comments about Jesse Jackson winning in 1984 struck me as more belittling than racial. And given how hard the Clintons have campaigned for African-American votes and the endorsements they’ve lined up, it’s hard to say they’re race baiting. People also quickly forget the insults of Obama allies, like the UNITE ad from Nevada that said in Spanish that Hillary Clinton had disrepsected Latinos. Whoever’s right, it’s clear that the Clintons can’t treat Obama like Paul Tsongas, the late Massachusetts Senator who stood between Bill Clinton and the Democratic nomination in 1992’s early primaries. The Clintons ripped into Tsongas, effectively portraying him as a Social Security-cutting deceiver. But Obama’s inspirational candidacy clearly needs to be handled more delicately. Maybe Clinton’s “fairy tale” and “give me a break” lines worked in New Hampshire at slowing Obama’s momentum but they’re clearly not tactically smart. The war still looks good for the Clintons but the hard feelings after an Obama defeat make the possibility of a black on the ticket with Hillary, much more likely, I think.