With no chance of winning the pledged delegate count or the popular vote, we've recently seen the Clinton campaign forced into making arguments of increasing specificity (and declining comprehensibility) to justify her continued presense in the race. One of the most popular - predictably trotted out again after her win today in Pennsylvania - is the accusation that Obama is incapable of winning the "big" states and will therefore struggle to win the election in November. Putting aside the remote likelihood of states like California or New York ever going red, today's events demonstrated precisely why she is wrong and precisely why Obama is likely to be the 44th president of the United States.
The demographics in Pennsylvania are tailor-fit for the Clinton campaign. The people here are white, working-class and old (Pennsylvania is the 2nd oldest state in the country): but for the sparsity of Hispanics here, this is Clinton's base to a T. After the last major primaries in Texas and Ohio, she carried a 19 point lead in this state, with some polls even putting her lead in the mid-high 20s. During this time, Obama has had to face continuing recriminations over the nature of his relationship with the Reverend Wright, a sharp backlash (completely out of all proportion) over comments made about the "bitterness" of the Pennsylvanian people and was forced to endure a televised debate that served no other purpose, it seems, than to give undue prominence to these and other similarly trivial issues. He fought the political juggernaut that is the Clintons (who are not used to losing at the best of times) on their own turf, on their own terms and still - despite all this - was able to erode their lead by ten points. Although we are now almost conditioned to the idea of Obama overcoming massive deficits in a matter of days just by setting his foot into a state (a rare gift, it must be said) the trend in Pennsylvania is still remarkable.
Clinton quite rightly claims to have already been vetted by the Republican noise machine: she has faced the irrational swarthes of self-serving vitriol that the GOP fuels itself on and - like her husband before her - she has consistently emerged standing and victorious. For Obama, though, it is difficult to see how the Republicans can hit him with anything in the election that he hasn't faced during the primaries already. Every hint of weakness in his character (his inexperience, his personal relationships, his loquacity etc.) has already been exposed and paraded by Clinton to no avail: by the end of all this, McCain will have little original left to work with. In a way, the adversity he has faced in Pennsylvania (the demographics, the scandals, the negative campaining) is a microcosm of the sort of adversity he his likely to face in the general election.
The fact that he was able to come out of Pennsylvania not merely holding his ground but having halved his substantial deficit there, demonstrates quite plainly the kind of political clout this guy has. After Pennsylvania, the prospect of going up against McCain must seem almost a doddle.