Game-Changers and Groundhog Days: The Most Exciting Super Tuesday Yet!

05/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Well! That was one heck of a game-changing tie-breaker, wasn't it? What exactly happened last night? It was interesting listening to the pundits try to puzzle that through as suddenly, somewhere south of midnight, Indiana surged for Barack Obama, leaving the mayor of Gary, Indiana with some serious bragging rights (and giving Keith Olbermann an excuse to cite The Music Man — oh yes, we caught you, even though you said it ironically rather than singing). So: What happens now? Well, a lot of people seemed certain — Tim Russert says Clinton's out, Wolf Blitzer says not so fast, and Chris Wallace and Karl Rove wonder why the hell they were able to see Bill Clinton's unhappy-looking face. Obama's face was pretty happy, to match an upbeat new speech which included multiple and specific references to how much and why he loved his country (satisfied, Peggy?), and also seemed to extend a wee olive branch toward his opponent. Chuck Todd did the math (popular vote = not great news for Clinton, even with Fla and Mi), and John King explained to Anderson Cooper that knowing your beat wasn't that surprising after 20 years and a little preparation. Zing! Meanwhile, CBS made an early, bold call — one which was very nearly unseated around midnight, which would have been awfully embarrassing. Underestimate the good people of Gary, Indiana at your peril.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Obama's speech: "I know the promise of America, because I've lived it." Here's Obama talking about why he loves America, and why he's patriotic, in a new, fresh speech that aims him toward the general — but looks back at the doubters, and reminds them about his own roots: "This is the country that gave my grandfather the chance to go to college on the G.I. bill when he came home from World War II...this is the country that made it possible for my mother, who had to go on food stamps at one point, to send my sister and me to the best colleges...that's the America I love. That's the America you love. That's the America that we are fighting for in this election." Yeah, that's his America, people. So go give that flag pin to someone who needs it. See the full speech here.

  • Much was made of whether Clinton's speech had concession elements in it. Well, she's still powering on, morning shows be damned. But both speeches had grace notes, particularly Obama's, which addressed the bruises of the campaign head-on and served as a guarantee to Clinton supporters that he'd be there for them, too. (As for Clinton, well, that we'll have to see about.)

  • Chuck Todd: Even if you factor in the popular vote in Florida and Michigan, Obama still leads in the popular vote. Also, he has +160 pledged delegates. Said Todd: "It may have just ended."

  • Olbermann: "Did it just end tonight?" Russert: "We now know who the democratic nominee is, and no one's gonna dispute it, Keith." Watch:

  • Blitzer, same time, with the same too-close-to-call information: "I'd be surprised if she were to drop out."

  • John King is a gosh-darned virtuoso.

  • Jeff Toobin on process: "What's going on now in Lake County, Indiana is a disgrace. To withhold the entire vote from a county because you want to get it all in first suggests a very suspicious way of counting votes...This is not the regular process. What Indiana has done throughout this election is very questionable." See full clip here.

  • On Fox, a claim that Hillary Clinton is planning for...the general? Shep Smith does math, is skeptical:

  • Also on Fox: Just in case you didn't get that Karl Rove doesn't want to see Bill Clinton's unhappy face, Fox helpfully points out Bill Clinton in the background, messin' things up:

  • Speaking of virtuosos, God bless TVNewser and their Olympian liveblogging! I am in love with that funky new program. And while we're at it, props to the Olympians on air the whole time. I mean, wow. (For example, TVN notes Brit Hume went for 6.5 hours plus. Not too shabby.)

  • Sudden, random midnight throw to Larry King was a surprise. Larry King? Really? Now? Wow, those suspenders are bright. (No pic. Use your imagination!)

  • The race is called somewhere north of 1. Except if you're CBS. Or Obama, actually, who conceded Indiana to Clinton way earlier in the evening. Oh, he's good. But CBS...damn, that could have been awkward.

  • Chuck Todd, this is getting habit-forming: Chuck: " we're looking for a plus 13 for Obama tonight on delegates. That completely wipes away the 12 delegates she got in Pennsylvania, and--" Dan: "Chuck, let me break in for a minute" -- music! -- "We are ready to make declare Hillary Clinton the winner in the state of Indiana." Chuck: "Aaaand, we did it." Then he went back to math.

  • The smooth election stylings of Dan Abrams. All he needs is a bottle of Courvoisier! That said, it might as well have been "Lockup" for how it was teased when Olbermann signed off — would it kill him to ever say, "Next up, Dan Abrams?" I am pretty sure I've never heard him say that.

  • David Gergen: "This is a man who has not won a major primary in almost two months...this puts life back in his campaign." Cooper reminded him that earlier he'd said that Obama had "found his voice" - an echo of Clinton's line from New Hampshire (not sure if it was intentional).

  • Echo chamber! Gergen also notes that "you're already seeing headlines in the blogophere - 'presumptive nominee' - why, thanks for noticing! Pass it on!

  • Brazile-Begala: He got his butt Begiven to him.

  • John King schools Anderson Cooper on prep: "I do a little homework before we have election nights. We read, we study, and we see what's going on." Ah, so that's how it's done!

  • Here's a nice compliment from Keli Goff, on the phone with me circa 12:25 a.m.: "John King is CNN's Chuck Todd." A nice compliment for them both. I wonder how King would look with a goatee? Blitzer-iffic?

  • Also, the opening credits on MSNBC were hysterical - completely appropriate for the opening theme music to Dallas, or Knots Landing or something. I especially love the "David Gregory in motion" bit. Between that and the whimsical face-smush graphic above (we love those) and the after-hours jazz thing — completely out of left field, a little jarring and more than a little random, but points for creativity — MSNBC gets the award for most random election fun had on a network. But, CNN has John King.

  • Lawrence O'Donnell: "Rush Limbaugh, with these returns tonight, a 20,000 vote margin — is the big winner tonight, because he gets to make a very credible claim that he determined the outcome of this election." (Sam Stein agrees.) Rachel Maddow does not: "When it's this close, anyone can claim credit."

  • Drop everything and listen to Andrea Mitchell, 2 a.m. landing at Dulles with Clinton: "They have their own version of reality here, and it is that they did well, a win is a win, they won Indiana...they were always behind and they came up from behind...and they had never expected to win North Carolina." On the math: "They are still counting on the superdelegates...they need to win - they expect to win - in West Virginia and Kentucky." South Dakota less so; Oregon they hope will be good, and Montana less so, but "Puerto Rico will be a big number for them, they think" said Mitchell, with over a million voters to "boost up the popular vote" (and provide another excuse to warble showtunes). But - two things to watch for: (1) A "wholesale bolting" of superdelegates and (2) May 31st - the Rules Committee, and a potential 'nuclear option.'

  • But this is interesting, also from Mitchell: "I think that she is poised -- and you heard some of that in her comments tonight -- she is poised to throw in her lot with Barack Obama if she thinks it is without hope....she is prepared to campaign vigorously and enthusiastically, with full enthusiasm for the ticket if it is topped by Barack Obama - she does not want John McCain to win. I know there is the theory out there that she really wants McCain to win and she wants to go at it again in 2012 and all that...I don't believe, based on my own reporting, that that is the case... I think she wants whoever is leading the ticket to win."

  • Sure, but she also wants that to be her. With caveats, says Carl Bernstein: "If she goes to trench warfare, the super delegates will shut 'er down." Gergen calls her valiant, and praises her "intestinal fortitude" (with HRC, the fortitude comes from everywhere!)'s up.

  • Bob Franken back on MSNBC: "Let's just put it right on the table. It's over. It's over." Okay, then. Nothin' left but the music. Oh yes, the music — hat tip, Olbermann, with a final tweak from me:

    If you'd like to have a logical explanation
    How I happened on this elegant syncopation,
    I will say without a moment of hesitation
    There is just one place
    That can light my face....

  • Gary, Indiana, Gary Indiana, Not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York, or Rome, but Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary Indiana, Brought this race home.*

    *Just a prediction. Those always seem to work out.