End of the road – or down the drain
– for Clinton after Texas and Ohio?
FLUSH REPORT. The scene of the Clinton press corps’ less-than-ideal filing center in the Berger Activity Center men’s locker room in.
By JOHN WHITESIDES
WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton, the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic presidential race just months ago, faces the possible end of her road on Tuesday in and .
The senator battled on Monday to save her campaign with victories in the two showdowns, which would halt rival Barack Obama’s streak of 11 consecutive wins in their hard-fought duel to be the Democratic nominee in November’s presidential election.
Voting ends in at 7:30 p.m. EST (0030 GMT on Wednesday) and all voting in Texas will be over by 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT on Wednesday).
Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, has said she needs to win both states to continue her campaign, a view shared by many analysts. Polls show tight races in both.
Even a split decision in the two states would leave her with a steep climb to overtake Obama’s lead of roughly 150 pledged convention delegates who select the nominee, and increase the pressure on her to quit.
“There will be people in her campaign who will argue a split decision is good enough to continue,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at in . “But as a practical matter, just looking at the delegates, the numbers won’t really add up for her.”
Obama endorsed the idea Clinton needs wins in both states, which have a combined 334 delegates at stake, to prolong the Democratic race.
“If we do well in and , I think the math is such where it’s going to be hard for her to win the nomination. And they’ll have to make a decision about how much longer they want to pursue it,” the Illinois senator said in an ABC interview shown on “ .”
Republican front-runner John McCain, an Arizona senator, also can come close to clinching the nomination on Tuesday with expected wins over his last remaining major challenger, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
McCain told reporters in Phoenix he was “guardedly confident” he could reach the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination on Tuesday and move on to a general election campaign.
“I still respect Governor Huckabee’s right to remain in this race for as long as he feels necessary to do so,” he said.
Clinton’s advisers have worked overtime to roll back expectations and turn up pressure on Obama in Tuesday’s contests in the two big states and and . But they would not speculate on what Clinton would do in the case of a split decision.
“We are very optimistic about our chance of success in and . If the outcome is different we can talk about it then,” said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson.
Like her husband, who nicknamed himself “The Comeback Kid” for his improbable rise to the White House in 1992, Hillary Clinton has dodged predictions of doom before. In January, Obama appeared ready to deal her a knockout blow in after his big win in , but she defied polls and swept to victory.
A few weeks later, her landslide loss in and a string of high-profile endorsements gave Obama momentum heading into contests around the country, but she battled him to a draw and won most of the biggest prizes of the night in , and .
“This has been a roller coaster race, and every time people try to foreclose it the voters come back and say ‘just wait a minute here, we want to have our say,” Clinton strategist Mark Penn told reporters.
“Let’s see what the voters say, let’s take a look at what the situation looks like on Wednesday, and I think it will be pretty clear,” he said.
Clinton hunted for votes in and on Monday. She began her day with a predawn visit to a Chrysler assembly plant in , a city that has struggled with the losses of manufacturing jobs and poverty.
Clinton planned to buy cable time in the evening for a televised town hall meeting in , while Obama planned a two-minute ad on evening newscasts in that it billed as his closing argument to voters.
Under Democratic rules allowing the losers in each state to win a proportional amount of delegates, Clinton will be unable to dramatically close the gap on Obama unless she scores big wins in and that appear to be beyond her grasp.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe released a memo questioning Clinton’s options if she does not make major strides in catching up to Obama in pledged delegates.
“While the Clintons gamely continue to try to move the goal posts, at some point there has to be a reckoning,” he said. “What is their path to secure the nomination? No amount of spin can change the math.”
Justin Sullivan / GETTY