Barack Obama's sweep of the Potomac primaries, with wins in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., established him as the clear frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination. He then charged full-steam into Hawaii and Wisconsin on Tuesday, and emerged with decisive wins.
On March 4, Obama will have a major test of his frontrunner status with races in Ohio and Texas.
Ohio and Texas will be make-or-break competitions for Hillary Clinton's campaign, which needs to win both states in order to turn the tide against Obama and close the gap of elected delegates. Only large victory margins would ensure something greater than a delegate split, which in essence would be a victory for Obama.
Obama's expectations coming in are much lower than Clinton's, who was thought to have these states locked up a month ago on the backs of blue-collar workers and Latinos.
Clinton was put in this position after losing the last 10 races, leaving her behind in delegates and desperate for a way to halt Obama's momentum.
This feels like a familiar place for Clinton, who was all but counted out before the New Hampshire primary after Obama's big win in Iowa. There she was able to transform herself into the comeback kid, but a win of the magnitude she needs on March 4 would be akin to the miracle of Lazarus. While Ohio may offer hope of resurrection, Texas could represent the final nail in the coffin to a struggling campaign that was never prepared to go beyond Super Tuesday.
While it may be premature to dance on Clinton's grave, Obama does seem to have the upper hand. Obama has flexed his fundraising muscle with two weeks of planned advertisements in both states. He also benefits from time, which means he has two weeks to get his feet on the ground. Texas and Ohio will not be a repeat of California, where Obama had few resources to spare and a short turnaround to mount an attack.
Obama also benefits from the hybrid system in Texas, which is a combination of primaries and caucuses. In every state with a caucus, Obama has won the most delegates, and his best caucus people have been in Texas for two weeks already starting a grassroots movement. The allotment of delegates in Texas also plays into Obama's favor, as large portions of delegates come from urban areas. Obama has also been making inroads with the Latino vote, which could undermine Clinton's base of support in Texas.
Ohio should remain a win for Clinton because it's a closed primary, which means Obama can't rely on Independents, and because of the racial and economic demographics. But it could come down to the wire.
In politics, momentum is a double-edged sword, and right now Obama's nomination appears inevitable as a result of his momentum. But he needs to be careful that he isn't derailed by the constant twists and turns from now until March 4. Because if the Obama campaign gets caught up in its own hype and buys into the idea of inevitability, he'll fail to deliver a knockout punch and let Clinton back into the race.
Dave Lombardo is a junior political science major who will, in fact, talk about politics in polite company.