Crystal Ball Triangulation - Getting To Super Tuesday
By: Mark W Adams

Ara has the video of a Barack Obama rally with some 15 to 20 thousand very enthusiastic supporters in Austin, Texas. Impressive crowd. What his advance people lack in experience, cash and infrastructure (and he's getting more good people every day) his supporters make up in enthusiasm.

Obamania, Obamanon, catch it. It's a wave, and anyone who worries that he's peaking too soon might be on to something,

Obama's in a weird place and is going to get squeezed from both ends. Hillary and her "vast" network and practically unlimited cash will hammer him from above while Edwards and Richardson (who I think gains most from Vilsack's departure -- as do those closer to the scene) will keep the pressure on from below.

I don't see Iowa or New Hampshire changing much. I know it's early, but these States have been staked out since Thanksgiving, 2004. Edwards owns Iowa and Hillary will get NH and little if anything can change that dynamic in my book.

In between is Nevada, and Hillary has the professionals in place along with Harry Ried, who IS Nevada politics. Richardson is next door and will make a good showing, and Edwards has the Union infrastructure in his pocket. If anything tells me that Hillary has a structural superiority in Nevada, it's Rupert Murdoch's Fox News being tapped to run the Nevada Democratic primary debate -- recall that Murdoch hosted a fundraiser for Hillary last summer which raised more than a few eyebrows. The Nevada State Democratic Party holding hands with News Corp. is proof that politics makes the strangest bedfellows.

Interesting that according to PoliticalMoneyLine, Friends of Hillary is the only presidential campaign Murdoch's contributed to -- not one GOP presidential contender. Jim Talent and Harold Ford, Jr. were also notable beneficiaries of Murdoch's largess.

Whither Obama at that point? NV's caucus hurts him, helps Richardson, and plays into Hillary's hands. (Come on folks, the fix is in. Just because Harry Reid took on the Vegas mob, doesn't mean he didn't learn a thing or two from them.) If NV weren't in play Obama wouldn't need to spend efforts making it a 4-way/3-state 1st week instead of a three-way/2 state 1st week primary.

NO upside for Barack there. He can't afford to be embarrassed in NV -- he needs 2nd or a real strong 3rd, but won't win it unless he spends a disproportionate amount of effort there. (And a Nevada win by Barack can be ignored easily by the pun-idiot-ocracy.) What's left is surprising everyone and stealing New Hampshire from Hillary.

That will take a fortune, and Hillary is much more charming in the one-on-one retail politics game of NH than on the stump. The question -- is Barack?.

Hillary, rather than Edwards, is the target. If Edwards and Obama try to compete for the left side of the party, the two populists will let Clinton look too professional, too competent as she stays above the fray. She has to be brought down for Obama to succeed. (And if you're reading this, you are by definition part of the blogosphere, a high intormation voter, and do not count when adding up the average voter's preferences.)

She also cannot be allowed to split the liberal base between the boys -- but I think the base has already done that for her. She would have no hope against a combination of Edwards and Obama supporters. Now she can pick them off individually.

S.Carolina is next, with home-boy Edwards and Hillary sucking up the oxygen. Richardson will be DOA and broke by then. Hillary already made a great strategic move there by getting the endorsements of several black leaders who supported Edwards last time around -- stealing from both her potential rivals.

Obama has to survive until Super Tuesday. With CA and FLA moving up their schedule, Obama is gonna need a king's ransom to compete in the big states or he's toast.

It's all about the ad buys Super Tuesday, and if Barack Obama doesn't have one clear win in the first 4, (and if the only win is NV, he better have a 2nd place finish in all the rest) he's not going to gain any traction with donors for the big contests.

At the Austin rally, Obama urged the crowd to make $5-$10 contributions so he wasn't beholden to the big money guys. That sounds great, but he needs more zeros on the ends of those checks -- and that means more potential Geffen incidents. So far, only Edwards is effectively tapping the netroots through Act Blue -- a resource for those small donations that Howard Dean proved can add up to an effective tool.

Obama needs to take Hillary out of NH. If He can win there -- and if he really works that state, he can -- Hillary goes into S.C. with no wins, or only NV in the first 3 contests.

Make the expectations game work against her. She's expected to win NH and NV, but Obama needs one of them going his way instead of Edwards' -- who would then go "home" to S.C. with not just Iowa (which he's running away with) but another State which will "prove" Edwards' credibility as a winner -- peaking at just the right time. Obama's break-point is New Hampshire -- a must win for him that the other two can afford merely a respectable showing.

On the other hand, S.C. is "must win" for Edwards and has enormous expectations there. If a guy named "Barack" can beat the home team, Edwards is (again) a bridesmaid. A Hillary win can be chalked up to her deep pockets as long as Edwards is within a couple of percentage points -- but it will still hurt.

Either Barack or Edwards will be done after South Carolina. Unfortunately, the shift of Edwards' supporters to Obama (or visa-versa) will not be in time to hurt Hillary on Super Tuesday if one or the other doesn't bow out before the S.C. contest, but folds immediately after. Classic DLC triangulation.

April 7 is the next reporting date, and Obama (and Edwards) are going to need to show they're on track to get at least $15-$20 million in the bank by July 7th's 2nd quarter reporting date just to afford a staff through New Hampshire. If they can't, big donors will stay away cuz they won't see the candidate making it. To compare Vilsack's staff was costing $500-K a month. and has nothing to show for it but debt. A winning campaign will need even more.

That big money coming this spring is where they'll find enough extra cash to get on TV and stage events like the one in Ara's video a couple of times each week in the fall.

If you feel that an unstated premiss of all this requires the belief that Hillary Clinton is unstoppable -- you're right. She is indeed beatable, but at the same time she is unstoppable even if she comes in third in every contest before Super Tuesday -- and will keep on going after that. She won't stop no matter how badly she does. That's how formidable I believe her organization and resources are.

She's ready for Super Tuesday right now. Everyone else will have to work for it.