SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Tuesday's four-state balloting failed to resolve the Democratic contest. Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton continue their battle, proving once again in this historic and roller-coaster race neither is the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee.
"As someone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you," said Clinton in Ohio, marveling that she, like her husband, can also be a comeback kid.
Clinton snatched Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island; Obama, Vermont. As the Texas returns trickled in late, Obama addressed an outdoor rally here, more than a bit defiant.
"We are on our way to winning this nomination," he said, pressing the case that he and he alone will end up with enough delegates.
Obama lost Ohio after taking negative slams from Clinton, but the biggest hit to the Obama camp came from within. The Obama campaign needed to wrap this election up as soon as possible before any of the Obama bubble burst. There was a rare mistake at the worst time, coming out just before the Tuesday vote.
Domestic policy adviser Austan Goolsbee, the University of Chicago economics professor, visited the Canadian consulate in Chicago and what he said -- or did not say -- about NAFTA grew from a molehill into a mountain. The Clinton camp gleefully called the international contretemps NAFTA-gate because of the Obama team's initial denials.
The beneficiary of this uncertainty is Sen. John McCain, who clinched Tuesday and moves into his general election phase, putting together a campaign to appeal to traditional conservatives and the switch hitters who have elected and re-elected Arnold Schwarzenegger governor in California. Obama talks about his Obamacans. McCain will also pursue the post-partisan vote; he'll be looking for his McCainocrats.
The methodical Obama campaign has been pursuing a multi-track strategy for the past weeks, building ground operations in the states ahead and mounting a drive to convince superdelegates that the math favors Obama no matter what and that Clinton needs to be pressured to drop out.
Campaign manager David Plouffe has been running a "psy-ops" -- psychological operation --through a series of conference calls where he has laid out what he called on Feb. 29 "the reality of the math," that there was no path that would leave Clinton with enough delegates.
Obama's oratory gets attention, but his ground game has been breathtaking. He has started organizing in the next round of states just in case. "Mississippi, Wyoming. All those states that are coming up are gonna make a difference," Obama said in his campaign plane Tuesday afternoon, flying from Houston to San Antonio. With Pennsylvania's April primary the next major hurdle as this contest goes on, Obama started moving resources there weeks ago.
As the primary continues, Obama's big strength remains that he has a consistent message. He has not relied on heavy negative advertising and has said he does not want to. Clinton used the small bore while Obama stayed macro.
Obama complained about Clinton's kitchen sink being thrown at him. It seemed to work for Clinton in Ohio, but that can't substitute for a macro message. Even with the Goolsbee stumble, Obama has a strong kitchen-table strategy.
"Yes we can," Obama said.
" Said Clinton, “Yes we will.”