By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008; 8:41 AM

John McCain got out there early--9:05 p.m., to be precise--to make his victory speech after winning Wisconsin, determined not to be run over by another Obama roof-raiser before he'd seized his television moment.

It almost worked. McCain was close to finishing when MSNBC's Keith Olbermann broke into his speech to project that Barack Obama would win Wisconsin on the Democratic side. Foiled again! And Hillary Clinton would soon be upstaged as well.

The victory by McCain, who took a shot at "an eloquent but empty call for change"--whom could he be talking about?--was expected. So was Obama's win, according to the Clinton camp's pre-election spin. The real question was whether Hillary would be competitive or be crushed, and how that would affect her do-or-die campaign to carry Texas and Ohio two weeks from now. In the end, another drubbing: She lost 58-40.

The anchors and correspondents had a field day rattling off the groups that Clinton had lost. She managed only a tie among women, and got clobbered among men. And she was seen as mounting more unfair attacks.

"When you look at men--white men, black men, young men, single men, married men--there's a real problem there," Tim Russert said.

Hillary emerged moments later in Ohio, beaming as if she had won, which has become her primary-night signature. (Get beat, look happy.) She couldn't possibly ignore the results again, as she did after the Potomac Primary, could she? Her team couldn't let her go out there into the State of Denial again? Their answer: Yes, We Can.

And then Obama did to Hillary what McCain had feared, blowing her off the screen a few moments into her speech, somewhere around her subprime-rate freeze. (I don't know, doesn't it seem rude to hog the airtime like this week after week? Or is that just hardball politics? Bottom line is that he always ends up with seven or eight times as much TV time. The man spoke for nearly an hour! Do the networks secretly love this, because he's good for ratings?)

Obama added a Reaganesque touch, peppering his speech with the problems of people he had met along the trail. He made the speech about his faith in the American people, not the other way around. And there were a few more specifics than usual, about health care and tax breaks and unsafe toys and teacher salaries and closing Guantanamo, as if he was responding to the empty-rhetoric charges. And he's going to fight al-Qaeda and keep us safe as commander in chief. That is a general-election speech.

With Obama's victory in Hawaii, which we learned of this morning, Hillary Clinton has just lost 10 straight contests. Even if this is a year of "no-mentum," that is a major-league problem. It's not just that she's on a losing streak, but that she's losing badly.

The Wisconsin results come as two new lines of criticism are being aimed at Mr. and Mrs. Obama, while Clinton's campaign has stirred the pot, according to the Politico, by indicating she will try to steal--okay, persuade--some of her rival's delegates by convincing them to defect. More on that in a bit.

The New York Times says Obama's big night is "forcing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton into a must-win scenario on March 4 as the nominating fight heads to the crucial states of Ohio and Texas.

"The victory reinforces Mr. Obama's position as the front-runner in the Democratic race, even as the Clinton campaign hopes the New York senator can stage a comeback next month when a large haul of delegates are up for grabs in Ohio and Texas."

CONTINUED     1              >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company