The good news for the 2008 presidential candidates is that their torturous march across the Super Tuesday battlefield ends tomorrow night. The bad news: A new march begins the next morning.
For Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it will be longer perhaps excruciatingly so.
For Republicans, the end may be closer.
Which raises the possibility that 2008 could produce another jack-in-a-box surprise: The party with advantages in polls and popular enthusiasm, and two path-breaking candidates, could yet march into trouble. And the party with the beleaguered White House incumbent and comparatively weak presidential field could grow stronger for the fall campaign.
Little attention has yet been paid to the states that follow the 22 that speak Tuesday night. But four days later, Democrats pick delegates in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington and the Virgin Islands. On Feb. 10, Maine Democrats hold caucuses. On Feb. 12, inside-the-Beltway Democrats vote in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. A week later, it’s Hawaii and Wisconsin.
These nine contest have fewer than one-third the 2,075 delegates at stake Tuesday. Yet if the delegate contest remains close, they could help either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton open up a lead.
The Obama campaign likes its chances for several reasons. One is that contests so far have shown that the more time he has to campaign, the better the senator from Illinois does against his New York counterpart.
The other is the Obama campaign moves into the later contests with a financial cushion of $32 million he raised in January, triple the Clinton campaign’s January goal and enough for Mr. Obama to begin media advertising to supplement organizational efforts in those states. "They just can’t match it," says Steve Hildebrand, an Obama campaign strategist.
The Clinton campaign sees its own advantages on the long march. One is the diminishing number of caucuses and "open" primaries, which have been playing to Mr. Obama’s strengths in organizing and among independents.
Another is the big March 4 contests: Ohio, a prime venue for Mrs. Clinton’s economic message, and Texas, where her edge among Hispanics could be decisive.
In any case, notes Karen Hicks, a Clinton campaign strategist, "This is going to be won by inches, not yards."