A Plague on Both Houses

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008; 9:05 AM

Barack Obama stumbled, bumbled, faltered and faded, but he still has a lock on the nomination.

That, in a nutshell, is the media consensus after Pennsylvania. Now I've saved you all kinds of time because you don't have to read anything else.

Journalists often accuse the Hillary camp of moving the goalposts--let's only focus on big states, blue states, the popular vote, whatever--but the media did a bit of that on Tuesday. After telling us for days on end that Hillary Clinton had to win by six to eight points for her victory to be significant, they largely dismissed her 10-point margin, saying it doesn't change anything. The math is the math, she can't possibly catch up, yadda yadda yadda. Hillary woke up yesterday morning to that NYT un-endorsement, castigating her for taking the low road and beseeching her to get the hell out of the race.

At the same time, the muscle-bound pundits have been kicking sand in Obama's face: Why can't he win blue-collar types, women, the elderly, Catholics, Reagan Democrats, fill-in-the-blank? What's his problem? He's got all this money and these adoring crowds and he can't break out of the African American/latte liberal precincts? He can't even push back against Charlie and George? Maybe he doesn't walk on water after all.

So from a media perspective, I would say they both lost. Neither one is getting good press. The pontificators say Obama will win despite his losing streak, and Hillary will lose despite her winning streak. Next question?

"It is the question that has hung over Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign," says the New York Times, "and it loomed large on Tuesday night after his loss to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Pennsylvania: Why has he been unable to win over enough working-class and white voters to wrap up the Democratic nomination?

"Lurking behind that question is another: Is the Democratic Party hesitating about race as it moves to the brink of nominating an African-American to be president?"

David Axelrod says race is a factor.

The L.A. Times also examines the endgame: "Hillary Rodham Clinton's Pennsylvania win has bought her time -- but not much -- to make her case to the Democratic Party's superdelegates, many of whom expressed a strong desire Wednesday to end the nominating contest once the final votes are cast."

The Boston Globe follows the money: "The financial benefits of Hillary Clinton's solid victory in the Pennsylvania primary became evident yesterday, as her campaign estimated that it would reap $10 million in new contributions in one day, even as her supporters and Barack Obama's debated whether the Pennsylvania result would change the trajectory of the Democratic race."

Wall Street Journal: "Sen. Hillary Clinton's primary win in Pennsylvania is stoking concerns about Sen. Barack Obama's appeal in a general election, even as party leaders -- including Clinton supporters -- admit he remains the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination."

In Time, Joe Klein weighs in: "Hillary Clinton won a convincing victory in Pennsylvania, but it came at a significant cost to the Clinton family's reputation and to the Democratic Party. She won by throwing the 'kitchen sink' at Obama, as her campaign aides described it . . .

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