LOS ANGELES – I’ve been to this movie before.
Act one: Hillary is way ahead. She’s supposed to win. Big. Then comes the Obama surge. That’s the beginning of Act Two.
Instead of writing off the state, he plunges in headlong, spending time and money, collecting a few key endorsements, and great press. The polls start closing up, or at least that’s the way it gets played.
Obama people start talking about not only finishing close, but actually winning, knocking Hillary out, how the whole thing could end, right here. In New Hampshire. In California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio or Texas. That’s the end of Act Two.
Obama people trying to control their anticipatory glee. Clinton people backstabbing, staff changes, pointing fingers of blame. Campaign in disarray. Impending doom.
But Hillary holding up. Bill is under attack, and mad as hell. It isn’t fair.
He’s right, but such is life. And then Act Three.
Early returns, exit polls, suggest Obama could pull it off. The message is change. Drudge has the first exits.
Could this be it for Hillary? No, it couldn’t.
She wins. She is exuberant. The pundits shake their heads.
How could it be? Look at yesterday’s polls. He was closing. But he didn’t.
Have some popcorn. Stay tuned.
Will Hillary win Pennsylvania?
Ask the people who told you she wouldn’t win New Hampshire and California and New Jersey and Ohio and Texas, and a few other places I’ve neglected to mention.
They’ll tell you she could lose, that Obama is gaining steam, that she’s run a horrible campaign, that her husband has hurt her, that it has to be over. They’ll talk about how Mark Penn has to go or will go or did go (I think he did, finally, sort of). There will be a million stories about Bill Clinton.
Then, my guess is, it won’t be over, or even close. They’ll turn a sure thing into a long shot into a comeback.
Then the same people will say, well, she should drop out anyway. Since when do people respond to winning by dropping out? Since when is quitting the response to a comeback? Since never.
And so we go.
If it weren’t so much fun, to watch anyway, it actually might be boring. Deja vu all over again. But it’s the presidency after all, and while John McCain struggles to keep the Sunni’s and Shiite’s straight, the Democrats actually have a fight to the finish for a nomination that could very easily lead the winner, whoever he or she is, to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The good news is, there will be a finish. At some point, someone will have 2024 delegates. At some point, superdelegates who haven’t decided yet will get pressure from both sides to make up their minds. At some point, someone will win.
The oddsmakers are saying that Obama will be the nominee. He might be, and if he is, he will deserve the crown he wears. But he has to win it. If he’s going to contest Pennsylvania, and he is, treating it as if it matters, it will matter.
The chattering class, myself included, ultimately take our leads from the candidates. We may define the expectations, but they set the targets. Obama could have written off Pennsylvania in the expectations, but the truth is that he doesn’t have the delegates to win the nomination, and he won’t unless he picks up a sizable chunk in that delegate-rich state.
IF he were way ahead, he could just say, that’s Hillary-country, let her have it, I don’t need it. But he does need it, because he isn’t that far ahead, because this is still a contest where the conclusion is far from certain. That’s why we keep playing the same game.
Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first woman President of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "The Case for Hillary Clinton," "How to Get Into Law School," "Sex & Power," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women."
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the "Blue Streak" column for FOXNews.com.