Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dallas News on Clinton/Obama in Texas

Clinton-Obama primary battle a Texas toss-up

12:00 AM CST on Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The March 4 Texas primaries will determine the course of the Democratic race for president and perhaps identify the eventual nominee.

With its 228 delegates, Texas is the biggest prize left in the presidential sweepstakes.

If Illinois Sen. Barack Obama wins the Lone Star State, the race for the nomination is probably over.

But Hillary Rodham Clinton could piece together a Texas victory with wins in Ohio and Pennsylvania to re-establish herself as the front-runner.

So who gets Texas?

I can't call it. But here are some factors that could yield clues.


Going into the presidential race, the conventional wisdom was that Mrs. Clinton had the best team and organization in the field.

But it's now clear that Mr. Obama has the superior ground game. His grass-roots effort is second to none. He melds a large staff of workers with an even larger group of volunteers.

Mr. Obama cleans up in caucuses and should do well in competing for the 42 at-large delegates chosen at the precinct conventions after the polls close.

Because Texas is not a caucus state and Mrs. Clinton has won the big states of California and New Jersey, Mr. Obama has to prove he can use his organization to win a diverse primary state like Texas.

Advantage: Obama


Not much of a contest here. Mr. Obama has mastered Internet fundraising and has the money needed to saturate the state's expensive media markets.

Mrs. Clinton had to loan herself $5 million recently, though her campaign reports that her fundraising has picked up since Super Tuesday.

Advantage: Obama


Mrs. Clinton has varied and established support in Texas, particularly in the critical Rio Grande Valley.

Mr. Obama has his share of endorsements. But the relationships developed by Mrs. Clinton helped her in California and should do the same in Texas.

Few Texas Democrats have political machinery intact, so surrogates are not as important as they could be. Politicos in the Rio Grande Valley and Houston are the exception.

Advantage: Clinton


The state's electoral makeup could trump all other considerations.

In 2004, almost half of Democratic primary voters were Hispanic. Nationally, Hispanic voters have leaned heavily toward Mrs. Clinton.

Want to know if the Hispanic vote is important in Democratic primary elections in Texas? Ask Victor Morales, who as a schoolteacher from Crandall beat former U.S. Rep. John Bryant, D-Dallas, in the 1996 Senate primary. In 2006, little-known Maria Luisa Alvarado won the nomination for lieutenant governor on the strength of the Latino vote.

Mr. Obama is expected to do well with young voters, blacks and men. Women are still favoring Mrs. Clinton.

Turnout could be important. An Obama tide could erase conventional wisdom.

Advantage: Clinton


Mr. Obama has created and cornered the market for "change" in our national politics. Republicans and Democrats are now debating which candidate is best suited to air out the political scene in Washington.

There's no question Mr. Obama's stirring speeches about unity and hope have touched chords in voters across the country.

Mrs. Clinton, however, has argued with some success that her experience makes her the best candidate.

But to a lot of people, being a former first lady doesn't exactly translate to being a change agent. Mr. Obama's celebrity appeal sometimes overwhelms Mrs. Clinton's experience argument.

Advantage: Obama