After what has seemed like an interminable campaign purgatory, the Pennsylvania primary is finally only four days away. Despite suggestion to the contrary, Barack Obama is all but guaranteed a victory.
Obama may well pull an upset. Since Texas and Ohio, the Clinton campaign has focused their message primarily on a superdelegate strategy. That strategy has included arguing that Obama is unelectable, suggesting he is out-of-touch and elitist, and criticizing him repeatedly for innocent associations with guilty people. The problem of course is that her argument to the superdelegates is not the most advisable to pitch to Democratic primary voters. It is not a coincidence that she sounds awfully similar to John McCain when she speaks. The rationale for her receiving the nomination without earning it is premised on the notion that Obama would not be able to stand up to Republican attacks. As such, she has peppered him with those attacks.
But such attacks are distinctly Republican for a reason, namely that they resonate significantly better with the Republican base than with Democrats. The left is unlikely to be swayed by Reverend Wright or Bill Ayers, and unlikely to find something especially disturbing about comments made at a San Francisco fundraiser. They are, after all, Democrats. It is not surprising, then, that we have seen no decline in Obama's poll numbers among those voters currently in play.
It is not just the attacks themselves that have failed, but also the act and manner in which they have been carried out. For at least a month now, the accepted media narrative is that Hillary's likelihood of winning is incredibly slim and that, absent something unforeseeable, Barack Obama will prevail. Even among those still undecided, watching Hillary Clinton beating up on the likely Democratic nominee is unsettling. Polls have consistently shown her negatives shooting up. More than half of Democrats say they don't trust her.
Of course, despite all of this, Hillary still leads in the state, and may pull off a win. A win for her, however, is still a significant victory for Obama. Despite having broken all campaign spending records in the state and despite having dramatically cut Hillary Clinton's lead, the narrative has yet to change. It is still the case that the Clinton campaign and surrogates are predicting a substantial victory. It is still the case that most pundits and opinion makers have come to expect one, as well. And with Obama's subpar debate performance and two mini-crises boiling to the surface in the final days of the campaign, it would appear expectations for Obama are nearly impossibly low. To meet or exceed those expectations would require almost nothing at all.
But whether those expectations are exceeded with a five point loss or met with a double-digit defeat, that Pennsylvania is over means the clouds of uncertainty that engulf the race will begin to clear. There is, indeed, a new kind of inevitability on the horizon. Whether he wins on Tuesday or not, Barack Obama cannot lose.