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Groundhog Day.

Byline: The Register-Guard

There were no knockouts or slam dunks for either candidate in Tuesday's Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary. When the drawn-out game finally ended, the only significant change on the political playing field was Democrats' growing fear that the stalemate was penalizing both candidates, polarizing voters and potentially aiding Republican prospects in the general election.

Sen. Hillary Clinton's nine-point win keeps her candidacy emotionally alive, if still mathematically challenged. Sen. Barack Obama's close but clear loss despite outspending Clinton by almost 3 to 1 did not quiet questions about his appeal to the white working-class voters who have been the key to every presidential victory, Republican or Democratic, since Franklin D. Roosevelt's election in 1932.

Every question about Clinton or Obama that existed before Tuesday's vote remained on Wednesday morning. Can Clinton manufacture a miracle? Can Obama win a big state?

Is Clinton's no-holds-barred negativity hurting both candidates and damaging Democratic chances against Sen. John McCain in the general election? Clinton's bare-knuckle campaign tactics drew a sharp rebuke from The New York Times editorial page on Wednesday. The Times, which endorsed Clinton for the Democratic nomination, said, "It is past time for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election."

Can Obama win the Big One in November if he can't win a Big State in February, March or April? He has lost big states from sea to shining sea, with Clinton beating him handily in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and California.

And if the Obama juggernaut - at one point he had won 11 primaries in a row by considerable margins - can be effectively halted by Clinton's hardball tactics, how would he survive against a Republican attack strategy that will be an order of magnitude more ruthless?

There's no end in sight to the Democratic dilemma. Both candidates promise to fight for every vote in the nine primaries to come, including Oregon's on May 20.

Obama is likely to enter the August Democratic NationalConvention with the lead in pledged delegates and popular votes. Neither candidate can win the 2,025 delegates needed to nominate before the convention.

That makes Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean's worst-case scenario, a "brokered" convention decided by the almost 800 elected officials and party leaders known as superdelegates, almost a certainty. For Clinton to win, she would have to convince superdelegates to overrule the voters - millions of them newly registered Democrats - who picked Obama. That's unlikely to win the loyalty of those voters in the general election.

Dean is hoping to head off such a potentially calamitous showdown by urging the superdelegates to declare their support before the convention. "I need them to say who they're for, starting now," Dean said last week.

There's only one problem with that (actually, nine): Oregon - and Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota - voters haven't had their say yet. If it's going to go the distance, let's not get ahead of ourselves, Mr. Dean.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Democrats wake up to the same as it ever was
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 24, 2008
Previous Article:Central Lane JP: Sinclair.

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