Hillary Clinton's campaign team is bracing for Barack Obama to take the lead later this month in the battle for the all-important delegates who will decide the Democratic nomination for the US presidency.The race for the candidacy looks poised to swing Senator Obama's way after this weekend's round of voting in Washington State, Nebraska, the Virgin Islands and Louisiana.
Senator Clinton's campaign team anticipates that she will lose her lead this month but is banking on her regaining it in the mega-states of Texas and Ohio on March 4 and Pennsylvania on April 22.
It will be psychologically and symbolically important for Senator Obama to take the lead after trailing for so long, albeit not by much. He is already ahead of his rival in fundraising.
The Clinton campaign will likely change tack following the emergence of Senator John McCain as the likely Republican candidate.
Senator Clinton's camp is expected to argue that she is better placed to deal with Senator McCain on security and economics and will most likely bring up a testy exchange of letters between Senators McCain and Obama in 2006 when the Republican accused the Democrat of backtracking on a promise to support him over a bill to restrict lobbying.
At the time, Senator McCain accused Senator Obama of "self-interested partisan posturing" while Senator Obama responded by saying he was "puzzled" by Senator McCain's outburst.
"It was sad to watch," said a Clinton campaign source. "He has no idea how to deal with McCain."
Senators Clinton and Obama are each campaigning for the 2025 delegate votes needed for a majority at the party convention in August, when the Democratic nominee for the November presidential election will be chosen.
The final tally of delegates has still not been allocated following the Super Tuesday poll. Yesterday, the 2008 Democratic Convention Watch website gave Senator Clinton 862 elected delegates to Senator Obama's 883. But when super-delegates - the 700-plus members of Congress, governors and others who automatically have a vote at the conventions - are taken into account, Senator Clinton has 1065 delegates while Senator Obama has 996.
Some hope the two could form a dream ticket - Obama and Clinton or Clinton and Obama, depending on one's loyalties - an arrangement that would see the two most exciting candidates in years running together for the White House. The idea gained greater currency last week when the Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, suggested that a deal would have to be reached to avoid an ugly showdown at the convention in August.
If they don't, there is growing concern in the Democratic party that the two could exhaust one another, deplete funds and damage each other with day-to-day criticism at a time when the Republicans have more or less settled on John McCain.
But Republicans are not united behind their candidate and President George Bush has called on his divided party to back the nominee, though without naming McCain. Many conservative Republicans are hostile towards McCain because of his moderate stance on immigration and his willingness to work with Democrats in the Senate.
Copyright © 2008. The Sydney Morning Herald.