On a night when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) completed a political comeback, the action on the Democratic side of March 4’s primaries looked even more dramatic as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) made a bid for one of her own. Winning a closely fought battle in Texas, as well as the important state of Ohio and a primary in tiny Rhode Island, Clinton reclaimed some momentum after eleven straight losses to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Obama took only one state on Tuesday, Vermont. Noting her campaign had won in most of the largest states which traditionally vote Democratic, Clinton vowed to fight on throughout the primary season (MSNBC) in June.
The gloomy state of the nation’s economy, including the role of free- trade deals, remained foremost in the concerns of voters in the delegate-rich states of Texas and Ohio. McCain swept those states as well as Rhode Island and Vermont to secure the number of delegates needed to make him the presumptive Republican presidential nominee (AP). His main challenger, Mike Huckabee, conceded the race, saying he was committed now to supporting McCain’s candidacy.
Analysts credited Clinton's resurgence with a strategy that included attacks on Obama’s readiness on national security and his sincerity on trade issues. Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times wrote Clinton “seemed to finally figure out how to make her brand of ‘experience’ compete with a mantra of ‘change’” that had spurred Obama. A buoyant Clinton told a victory rally in Ohio again of her qualifications to be commander-in-chief “from day one” (NBC). Obama has continued to challenge Clinton’s claim of superior experience for the presidency and stressed he would press on with a positive campaign centered on the “change in Washington” theme. But analysts have noted he now faces the tough task of pursuing a two-front political struggle against McCain and Clinton, who both have criticized his national-security credentials (WashPost).
Exit polls from Democrats voting March 4 showed deep concern with the nation’s economy. In economically strapped Ohio, eight of ten voters said trade deals on average take jobs away from their state. Roughly six in ten voters in the other three states said the same thing (AP). In the intense campaigning before the Ohio and Texas contests, Clinton and Obama sparred on trade and national security. Their differences centered on credibility, rather than policy matters. In Ohio, for example, Obama charged Clinton was an early champion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She denied that and countered that Obama had given misleading statements about his opposition to the trade deal, which Ohioans blame for causing the loss of manufacturing jobs (Politico). Analysts like CATO's John T. Griswold point out that over half of Ohio's export earnings come from Canada and Mexico. Yet voters there and in many other states apparently still believe the United States gave away more than it got in return (LAT).
While Clinton’s wins snapped her losing streak and revived hopes of a comeback, some analysts said the calculations on delegates show a very difficult road for the nomination no matter how well she does in the remaining states because of the Democrats’ complicated process for selecting delegates. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter writes: “No matter how you cut it, Obama will almost certainly end the primaries with a pledged-delegate lead, courtesy of all those landslides in February.”