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Clinton/Obama Debate: No "Game Changer" As Fight Continues

Democratic Debate
CNBC.com
Democratic Debate

Hillary Clinton had a very strong debate last night. Barack Obama did not. Those (Obama allies) criticizing the performance of ABC moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are wrong in my view.

Their questions about controversies from Jeremiah Wright to flag lapel pins were tough on Obama but intelligent and respectful. They reflect questions that Democrats are asking themselves privately now, and that Republicans will ask loudly and publicly if Obama becomes the Democratic nominee this fall.

Nevertheless, my reporting among Democratic political pros today tells me the debate has not shifted the super-delegate dynamic that has favored Obama for the past two months. And she has to change it very soon to keep alive her chance for the nomination.

If he continues the slow, drip-drip-drip accumulation of super-delegates--roughly one per day since early February--there won't be enough to save her after primaries conclude even if she gets all of them.

What Clinton probably has done--with "bitter-gate" and last night's debate--is prevent Obama from using his massive spending advantage to keep whittling away her lead in Pennsylvania. Even though Obama's labor union allies will pile on with a fresh wave of TV ads this weekend, she's likely to win by a comfortable margin next Tuesday. But two weeks later she'll be fighting for her political life again in Indiana, and her odds there are no better than even money.

If she prevails in both places, she has a chance to halt Obama's super delegate advances. But she has a lot more work to do, and progress to make, before that happens.

Questions? Comments? Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.