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Susan Estrich: Clinton or Obama on Top?

I hate pundits who remind you when they were right, and conveniently forget all the times we’re wrong. Half the fun of being a pundit is that it really doesn’t matter; that unlike the situation when you’re running a campaign, our mistakes don’t count for anything but amusement.

Even so, when I turned my computer on at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday and saw, on my favorite such source, the Primary Day Drudge report, the report that the exits were closer than expected, I couldn’t help but start laughing. My students thought, probably not for the first time, that I had gone slightly nuts.

There we were, discussing attitudes towards rape, and I was laughing. Still, it was my screenplay playing out. At the end of Act Two, it always looks like this could be the end for Hillary, like Obama, spending more, bigger crowds, momentum rolling, might just stop her in New Hampshire/Nevada/California/New Jersey/Ohio/Texas/Pennsylvania; the exits are always closer than expected; the obituary writers get their pens out, the Obama people start saying it better be a convincing win or she’s dead and then, whoosh, she’s alive!

On to the next state.

Same time, same place. See you in Indiana.

Will it happen all over again?

Of course.

What it means, of course, is that even if the math mavens keep saying that she can’t close the gaps, the Hillary people keep pointing out that he can’t close the deal. And if he can’t close the deal, then it is not true, statistically, that she can’t close the gap.

What it means is that the “superdelegates,” the unpledged, unbound, unelected group of so-called wise men, and a few women, get to decide who the nominee is, and they haven’t decided yet. Let’s face it. This thing has been going on for a long time.

If you haven’t decided which of the two candidates you “like” best then you’re worse than some of the guys I used to date who couldn’t make a commitment for Saturday night. If you don’t know yet, Pennsylvania isn’t going to do it. Nor is Indiana.

What will?

Someone could win some place they’re not supposed to. Hillary could win North Carolina. Obama could win Indiana. How likely? Not.

Something could happen. I call this an “X factor.” Jeremiah Wright was an “X factor.” Bitterness was an “X factor.” Both hurt Obama, not enough for Hillary to close the gap, but maybe enough to slow his drive to close the deal.

Is there another “X factor” looming for either candidate? Will one of them make a mistake that costs them?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Or we will keep trooping along for another six weeks.

Obama ahead but not by enough. Money not making the difference some thought it would. Superdelegates trickling in one direction or another. And then? And then there will be not the first in the nation but the last in the nation primary. And then Puerto Rico will finally decide, and the Michigan-Florida endgame will reignite, and maybe, if we’re lucky, one or the other candidate will be able to produce a list that says, here are the 2024 bodies/slots/people who will be voting for me at the Democratic convention.

But of this I’m sure. The longer this thing goes, the more likely it is that these two — as much as they may be coming to dislike each other, much as their supporters (at least at the top levels) may be coming to distrust each other, much as professional Democrats may be wondering out loud if once again we are about to steal defeat from the jaws of victory and do for McCain what he couldn’t do for himself — are going to end up running together.

There comes a point where the only way to put the party together is literally to put the two halves together. What remains unclear, still, is which half ends up on top.

Stay tuned. There’s never been a better time to be a pundit — or a worse time to be living on a campaign plane!

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.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission. A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership. Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.