Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her advisers increasingly believe that, after a series of losses, she has been boxed into a must-win position in the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4, and she has begun reassuring anxious donors and superdelegates that the nomination is not slipping away from her, aides said Monday.
Clinton held a buck-up-the-troops conference call on Monday with donors, superdelegates and other supporters; several said afterward that she had sounded tired and a little down, but determined about Ohio and Texas.
They also said that they had not been especially soothed, and that they believed she might be on a losing streak that could jeopardize her competitiveness in those states.
“She has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she’s out,” said one superdelegate who has endorsed Clinton, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “The campaign is starting to come to terms with that.” Campaign advisers, also speaking privately in order to speak plainly, confirmed this view.
Several Clinton superdelegates, whose votes could help decide the nomination, said Monday that they were wavering in the face of Obama’s momentum after victories in Washington state, Nebraska, Louisiana and Maine last weekend.
Some said that they, like the hundreds of uncommitted superdelegates still at stake, might ultimately “go with the flow,” in the words of one, and support the candidate who appears to show the most strength in the primaries to come.
The Clinton team moved on Monday to shift the spotlight off the candidate’s short-term challenges and focus instead on “the long run,” in the words of her senior strategist, Mark Penn.
“She has consistently shown an electoral resiliency in difficult situations that have made her a winner,” Penn said. “Senator Obama has in fact never had a serious Republican challenger.”
Clinton advisers have said that superdelegates should support the candidate who they believe would be the best nominee and the best president, while Obama advisers have argued that superdelegates should reflect the will of the voters and also take into account who they believe would be the best nominee. Superdelegates are Democratic party leaders and elected officials, and their votes could decide the nomination if neither candidate wins enough delegates to clinch a victory after the nominating contests end.
With primaries on Tuesday in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, Clinton advisers were pessimistic about her chances, though some held out hope for a surprise performance in Virginia.
And as polls show Obama gaining strength in Wisconsin and his native state, Hawaii, which vote next Tuesday, advisers, donors and superdelegates said they were resigned to a possible Obama sweep of the rest of February’s contests.
Some donors also expressed concern about a widening money imbalance between Obama and Clinton: Obama fundraisers say he is taking in roughly $1 million a day, while Clinton fundraisers say she is taking in about half of that, mostly online. Clinton’s aides say that they were virtually broke as of the Feb. 5 primaries, but that finances have stabilized.