There were the makings of a celebration as the What Cheer? Brigade unleashed its joyous cacophony amid hundreds of Barack Obama supporters at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel on Tuesday night. Yet the results being described via MSNBC on the large screen on the nightclub’s stage — with Rhode Island being called for Hillary Clinton not long after polls closed at 9 pm — told another story.
It was predictable that Clinton’s string of victories here, in Ohio, and in the Texas primary would be swiftly recast into the memo — subject: “The Path to the Presidency” — by Clinton advisers Harold Ickes and Mark Penn that landed in the e-mail inboxes of reporters Wednesday morning.
To some of the Obama supporters at Lupo’s, the extension of the Democratic contest makes for more drama, a chance for the country to debate liberal politics.
Yet it’s hard not to think that the big beneficiary of Tuesday night is John McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, since Obama and Clinton have dropped many millions of dollars raising each other’s negatives in such key states as Ohio — and now that process will continue, for how long no one knows.
Some Obama supporters preferred to focus on the positive, noting their candidate’s continued advantage in the delegate count. “She’s still in the hole,” said Providence Councilman Cliff Wood.
Marti Rosenberg, who stressed that she was speaking as an individual, and not in her official capacity as development director of US Action, spoke of the pride inspired by Obama among his supporters. “His roots are as a community organizer,” she points out. “We figure out how to do the impossible. The voters get it. I think he’ll make it through.”
Organizer and Roger Williams Law School student Kim Ahern, who proved the top vote-getting delegate in the First Congressional District, said, “Like any competitor, I would have liked [for Obama] to have won Rhode Island.” Ahern took solace in how the Illinois senator gave Clinton a local run for her money.
Yet after Obama’s campaign ran an energetic ground effort in the Ocean State — and outspent Clinton on advertising by better than three-to-one — it was frustrating to realize that the state’s demographics (heavy on older, predominantly working class and Catholic voters) still played directly into Hillary’s strengths. Even with a historic turnout, she scored a decisive victory in Rhode Island.
Suddenly, the Ocean State’s unprecedented role in presidential politics — a taste of the New Hampshire primary moved a few states south, with a front-page story last weekend in the New York Times — was over.
In an e-mail to his supporters, Obama wrote, “When the dust settles from [Tuesday’s] contests, we will maintain our substantial lead in delegates. And thanks to millions of people standing for change, we will keep adding delegates and capture the Democratic nomination.”
Like their candidate, the Obama supporters at Lupo’s were yielding no quarter.
Yet with the first bleak projections of the exit polls on Tuesday night, they had to confront the unwelcome reality of a more complex and ultimately less predictable presidential landscape.
: This Just In
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