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Obama rose. Clinton slid fast. Why?

Poor planning for post-Feb. 5 races tripped up the Clinton camp, analysts say.

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Probably not. At the same time, Obama's skill in putting together a team, and foreseeing and planning for a long campaign, may not tell the public much about how he would operate as president. After all, every president has arrived in the Oval Office after demonstrating some skill as a candidate and an organizer, but American history is littered with failed presidencies.

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Ultimately, astute planning takes a candidate only so far. In Obama's case, analysts say, his ability to tap into the national zeitgeist and articulate an appealing message is central to his success so far.

"This election is going to be something akin to the election of 1980, when the mood was sour and there was malaise in the country," says Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University in Washington. "Ronald Reagan offered hope, and Obama's offering hope – it doesn't have to be like this, he's saying."

Still, no one is counting Clinton out. If Obama stumbles badly in either of the two pre-March 4 debates – one Thursday night (after Monitor deadlines) and one next Tuesday – momentum could swing back to her. But she can't count on that. There's also the possibility that, as Obama's momentum continues toward the nomination, enhanced press scrutiny will produce stories that hurt his candidacy. Again, that's not something Clinton can count on.

Her campaign's game plan starts with her winning in the three most delegate-rich states left to vote – Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (whose primary is April 22). In a conference call Wednesday with reporters, top adviser Harold Ickes asserted that, in that case, at the end of the primaries in June, neither candidate would have enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination, and that Clinton would win enough of the remaining "automatic" or superdelegates to become the nominee.

While Clinton currently leads among superdelegates, there's no guarantee that those who remain uncommitted will go to her, especially if voters in their states or districts have backed Obama.

On the fundraising front, Clinton is caught in a bind. Her January numbers paled in comparison to Obama's. He reported raising nearly $37 million, about $5 million more than previously reported for the month, and spent $31 million. Clinton raised about $15 million and loaned herself $5 million, while spending $29 million.

Obama is raising about $1 million a day. Clinton's numbers for February are not available, but her campaign says she is raising what she needs to remain competitive. Still, in politics, money follows the winner, and her 58 percent to 41 percent loss in Wisconsin on Tuesday didn't make for the best sales pitch.

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