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February 11th, 2008
06:25 PM ET

For Democrats, Will Psychology Overwhelm Math?

David Gergen
David Gergen is a political contributor for Anderson Cooper 360°.

Everyone expected that he would win Louisiana and probably Washington but she had a fighting chance in Nebraska and was widely seen as the frontrunner in Maine. Instead, he had blow outs in all four:

Washington 68-31

Louisiana 57-36

Nebraska 68-32

Maine 59-40

(And in the Virgin Islands, it was 92-8.)

A sweep of that magnitude, coming across the country, suggests that something big is stirring in the electorate. Perhaps the momentum that Obama was building up just before Super Tuesday has kept on growing. Perhaps that YouTube “Yes We Can” clip, which now has over 3 million views, has had a contagious effect. Clearly, Obama is connecting well in front of large crowds and on television, as we saw with his Richmond speech on Saturday night.

We will get a better handle on what is happening tomorrow in the Potomac primaries. The Clinton folks have long thought they were very competitive in Virginia - indeed, not long ago, it appeared safely in her camp. If Obama can win big there, along with Maryland and the District, the effect could be electrifying for his campaign. Certainly, the media narrative will change, recognizing that he has seized the momentum.

Can Clinton reverse the thrust on March 4 in Ohio and Texas? She has stopped his surges twice before - in New Hampshire and on Super Tuesday. Both of those were near-death experiences for her campaign. So, she has shown she is resilient, full of fight, and capable of a comeback. With Maggie Williams now given full responsibility as campaign manager - an excellent choice - she could well gather her forces once again.

But as Rudy Giuliani found, it is highly dangerous for a candidate to wait... and wait... until a campaign reaches more favorable terrain. March 4 may be a long way off when measured by the emotions of a campaign. My sense is that she has made a big mistake in not contesting these intervening contests more vigorously. Yes, the delegate numbers can still work for her in the end, but psychology often trumps math in political campaigns - and right now, Obama is sparking enormous psychic energy. Let's see what happens tomorrow!

-David Gergen, Senior Political Analyst


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