The Herald

US race goes to the wire

Obama has edge for Democratic nomination


TEXAS may finally decide the Democratic race for the White House. Commentato­rs will struggle to resist mention of the Alamo as Hillary Clinton makes what looks like her last stand in the Lone Star state. She may not lose to Barack Obama there or in Ohio tonight, but she may not win by a large enough margin to save her campaign. Since Super Tuesday, the sense of inevitabil­ity that once hung over her candidacy has shifted to her opponent.

Unless she takes both states decisively, she should stand aside because the longer this contest drags on, the bigger will be the advantage ceded to her real opponents, the Republican­s. In the past fortnight, the Democratic campaign has been getting dirtier. Mrs Clinton’s attacks on Mr Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience and dubious Chicago property dealings are grist to John McCain’s mill. With the Republican nomination all but sewn up, Mr McCain can only profit from internecin­e strife in the Democratic camp. Also, while the two Democrats are off wooing their own voters among the low-paid and unemployed with populist policies, Mr McCain has a free hand in reaching out to centre-ground independen­ts who will decide who wins in November.

To date Mr Obama has run a campaign of such transcende­nt brilliance that it has made Mrs Clinton look cynically political. But he has a long way to go if he is to sweep past John McCain in the way he has outflanked Hillary Clinton.

There are many ifs along the way. If the US does elect its first AfricanAme­rican President in November, it will be a triumph for democracy and a victory for what Mr Obama has taken to calling “the audacity of hope”. (On both counts, it would offer a stark contrast with the sham elections we have just witnessed in Russia.) But what then? He will have been put there by an alliance of the young, progressiv­es, independen­ts and black voters.

He will inherit a nation battered by many storms: the sub-prime crisis, a falling stock market, rising oil prices and paralysis in Iraq and Afghanista­n. To pull the country from this mire, he will have to take on many vested interests: corporate America (including big donors to the Democrats), lobbyists, the big pharmaceut­ical companies, the arms industry, the oil men. To do so he will need a lot more than poetic rhetoric.

Hillary Clinton’s main weapon against Barack Obama concerns his inexperien­ce. In recent days there are indication­s that her point may be getting through, but it is probably too late to save her campaign. For the Democrats, the biggest fear is that she is right. Barack Obama may be able to succeed electorall­y. Can he succeed politicall­y?

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