Drunkblogging Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont

9:49 pm PST -- It's getting on towards midnight in Austin, and with 65% reporting, Clinton holds a narrow lead -- but her grip is slipping. Obama could still very well get a narrow win. Or so could Clinton. The result?

A big, fat muddle.

Earlier, I wrote that there were only two big questions tonight. Can Hillary win? And, can Obama lose? I also admitted that today's races probably wouldn't give us answers.

So here's some more pre-spun spin.

Even if Hillary loses Texas, it will only be just barely. And with that, she'll be able to make the claim that she's won every big state other than Illinois (Obama's home state), and Texas, where she came this close to making a major comeback. She'll also be able to argue, and effectively, that her big win in Ohio was a major comeback.

So -- can Clinton win? She did well tonight, but Obama still leads.

Can Obama lose? He certainly did in Ohio, big-time. But can he lose the nomination?

Hello... is this thing on?

8:49 pm PST -- With nearly half of Texas precincts reporting, Clinton leads Obama by slightly more than 33,000 votes. However, the rural precincts -- where Hillary polls stronger -- are reporting quicker than the urban and suburban areas where Barack's strength shows.

That said, even a narrow loss in Texas could give Obama more delegates than Clinton.

Texas has this strange primary/caucus hybrid, and it awards more delegates to the "blacker" parts of Texas than the "browner" parts. Or at least that's how I understand it, after having tried (and failed) three times to read all the rules laid down by Texas Democrats.

But will Clinton quit? Oh, no! After winning Ohio, Clinton can claim at the very least a moral victory in Texas. And maybe her crack team of highly-paid lawyers can win her back some of Obama's Lone Star delegates.

And I remain convinced, beyond all logic or reason, that the above sentence is an anagram for "Democrat Civil War."

8:13 pm PST -- No less than The New Republic claims that "the result of the March 4 primaries, as outlined in the initial exit polls, show that he could have as much trouble as Hillary Clinton in the fall."

Left unsaid is that Clinton's intransigence (I dare you to use that word properly after drinking as much scotch as I've had tonight) is one of the biggest reasons either potential candidate looks weak vis-a-vis McCain in the general election.

And Reuters claims that Hillary's big Ohio win "kept her White House hopes alive," despite being far behind in delegates and total votes cast.

The race continues -- From the voting booths of Pennsylvania, to the courthouses of Michigan!

7:37 pm PST -- ABC News shows Hillary strong in Ohio, 56% to 42%, with almost half of all precincts reporting. That's a solid, solid win -- although I expect that margin to narrow before the evening is over.

ABC News also has Texas at a virtual tie with 19% of precincts reporting.

7:21 pm PST -- Is this the best primary since 1968, or what? Sure, 1968 had riots and fires and stuff in the streets of Chicago, but in 2008 we've got dueling press releases (and maybe lawyers, too!) in Texas. Read:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) campaign charged rival Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign with breaking several rules in the Texas caucuses.

The Clinton campaign called an "emergency" conference call with reporters that was interrupted by Obama's chief counsel Bob Bauer, who called in and said the Clinton campaign only criticized the caucus process when it was losing.

With Clinton facing what many consider must-win scenarios in both Ohio and Texas and both races too-close-to-call, the Clinton campaign charged that the Obama campaign had shut the doors on Clinton supporters at some of the caucuses, among other things.

The campaign also said the Obama camp had hijacked some of the caucus packets at certain precincts, adding that in others Obama supporters were calling in caucus results before the polls had closed.

Reminds me of a little something I wrote immediately after the New Hampshire primary:

I'm telling you, you've got to run a stake through the heart, separate the head from the body, burn the remains and scatter the ashes in heavy winds if you want to put a Clinton down for good.

And it doesn't look like anything has changed since then.

7:05 pm PST -- I'm not the most modest blogger, and less so while drinking.

Nevertheless, tonight's best line comes from Megan McArdle:

9:21 Huckabee is basically conceding. Now that he's dropped out, I have to admit he's kind of charming, like your good-hearted Uncle Ned who believes in free silver, and fairies.

Meanwhile, Obama's lead in Texas is shrinking. He' now only up by 51-49% over Clinton. Can she still turn it around? And given the weird delegate-selection rules in Texas, will it matter?

We'll stay up as late as it takes to answer all those questions, plus many, many more. Or at least as many as we feel we need to answer in order to justify our PJM paycheck.

6:49 pm PST -- Our long national nightmare is over -- Mike Huckabee is expected to concede to reality and drop out of the race tomorrow. Who will he endorse?

Oh, who cares? McCain has he nomination and Huckabee can go back to the peanut farm he came from. Wait -- I have again confused Huckabee with Jimmy Carter. My bad, but I still refuse to apologize to Iowa.

Elsewhere, Jules Crittenden says that if Hillary wins Ohio, it's gonna be "coyote ugly."

And by her own math, if Clinton wins just one state tonight, then she'll just have to keep on fighting, darn it.

(I am convinced, without evidence and beyond all logic or reason, that the previous sentence is an anagram for "schadenfreude.")

6:26 pm PST -- The AP, via the Guardian in London, via VodkaPundit in Colorado via Pajamas Media in Los Angeles reports that Hillary won big in Ohio.

With white chicks, anyway:

Preliminary data from interviews with Ohio Democratic voters showed she was getting the votes of two in three white women, a group that has generally supported her heavily but with whom she had slipped to thin margins recently in Virginia and Wisconsin.

With other voters, Clinton is sometimes doing better-than-expected, but not-so-great overall.

Again I have the feeling we'll be here a while tonight.

6:25 pm PST -- Texans might call it an ass-whuppin'. That is, if Drudge is to be believed. Look at these numbers:

OBAMA 489,023 56%

CLINTON 374,383 43%

Those are some not-too-early-to-be-believed numbers out of the Lone Star State.

Stay tuned for more.

5:55 pm PST -- That Ron Paul Revolution is gonna start real soon, right?

Yeah, I'm drunk.

4:58 pm PST -- Also from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, both Clinton and Obama are complaining about polling irregularities in Ohio:

Hillary Clinton's campaign said it had received reports that poll watchers for Barack Obama were reprimanded in Cincinnati for wearing campaign paraphernalia into polling places and that a Obama observor in Akron was removed for "aggressively challenging voters."

Hamilton County election officials said some Obama poll observers had not obtained credentials in advance but instead showed up with a letter from the campaign. Some were required to turn their Obama t-shirts inside out.

Obama's campaign said it has received reports of independents and Republicans being denied Democratic ballots when they asked for them.

That last line does everything but prove my earlier theory about how those crossover votes will be spun later.

And take this on faith from someone who has drank his way through many a late campaign night -- when both sides are claiming polling place nastiness before the polls even close, then the returns are going to come in like that naked knife fight in "Eastern Promises," only the naked people are all ugly.

I'm sorry if I made you imagine naked politicians, but at least now you know why I drink my way through these things.

4:23 pm PST -- You want spin? Now this is spin:

A lot of Democratic stalwarts have been suggesting she'll have to fold her campaign if she doesn't win convincingly over Barack Obama in both Texas and Ohio. He's won 11 contests in a row. But her advisers are now saying that if Obama loses any of Tuesday's contests, it would constitute "buyers remorse" among Democrats about Obama as their nominee. That would include not just delegate-rich Texas and Ohio, but Vermont and Rhode Island, which also hold primaries Tuesday.

Let me get this straight. A loss for Obama anywhere is a win for Hillary everywhere? I'm so spun my boxers are on backwards. And on my head.

At the end of Watergate, Barry Goldwater went to the Oval Office after hours to tell Nixon to give it up and resign -- his presidency was over.

Who will be brave enough to be the Democrats' Goldwater tomorrow? Because by the looks of the story above, she's going to need a very good talking-to before she calls it off.

Then again, we still have Ohio and Texas to go.

4:08 pm PST -- It's like when the Jeffersons appeared on All in the Family. Or when the Bionic Woman appeared on the Six Million Dollar Man. Or when Laverne & Shirley appeared on Happy Days. Or when Mork appeared on Happy Days. Or when Kojak appeared on Happy Days. Yes, it's crossover time in Ohio.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

Poll watchers throughout Ohio are noting large numbers of Republican voters crossing over to vote in the Democratic Primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In the Republican roost of Chagrin Falls, veteran poll worker Liz McFadden was amazed at the number of people jumping the party's ship. Democrats accounted for 70 percent of the voters in her precinct, one of seven at the village's high school.

"That's a complete reversal of what it normally is, even more so," she said. "I've never seen a switch like this."

Here's tonight's spin, pre-spun. If Hillary cruises to an easy victory in Ohio, then you can bet those crossover voters will be seen as evildoing Republicans switching parties to vote for the weaker candidate. If Obama ekes out a win, it will be because of his universal appeal to Democrats, independents, and even brave Republican voters.

One last thing. Rhode Island should have been a lock for Hillary, but that state is reported deadlocked right now.

Clinton HQ probably isn't happy camp right now.

Update: Vermont for Obama. No surprise there. But twelve straight wins? That's nothing to sneeze at, not even if you were hoping to get that sneeze looked at by a HillaryCare-approved doctor.

3:30 pm PST -- CBS News has released some of its own exit polls and -- surprise! -- Democratic voters are worried about the economy:

Ohio Democratic voters hold mostly negative views on U.S. trade with other countries: Eight in ten say trade takes jobs away from their state. In Texas, 58 percent say trade takes jobs away, while a quarter say U.S. trade with other countries creates jobs.

Thirty-two percent of Texas Democratic primary voters are Hispanic, according to the early exit polls -- up from the 24 percent in 2004. Eighteen percent are black, down from 21 percent in 2004.

In Ohio, 20 percent of Democratic primary voters are African American, up from 14 percent in 2004.

Given that Clinton and Obama have both threatened to unilaterally demand trade reductions with Canada and Mexico, Democratic voters have every right to be worried. We all do.

That gripe aside, these numbers suggest that Hillary might be doing better in Texas, and worse in Ohio, than previously thought.

3:03 pm PST -- CNN's Political Ticker says Obama isn't happy with the media anymore. Read:

Democrat Barack Obama - a candidate who's confronted two of the most negative news cycles of his campaign over the past couple of days - said Tuesday that he's "surprised" rival Hillary Clinton's strategy of taking aim at the media has helped her campaign "as well as it has."

"I didn't expect that you guys would bite on that," Obama told reporters aboard his plane, "this whole spin of just how the press just has been so tough on them and not tough on us."

Standing in the aisle of his press plane with his wife Michelle at his side, Obama added that he is a "little surprised that all the complaining about the refs has worked as well as it has for them."

It's obvious that if the MSM doesn't hate Hillary, they sure don't like her not-exactly-press-friendly campaign. But are they finally falling out of love with Barry? He sure seems to think so.

2:52 pm PST -- Some early exit polls just revealed by the San Francisco Chronicle claim that, "In the Democratic primaries, independents were about one in five voters in Ohio, one in four in Texas, a third in Rhode Island and four in 10 in Vermont."

Independent voters have been breaking for McCain and Obama, but I wonder if that's still true. Also, savvy Republicans in Texas, sure that McCain has it cinched, might pick up Dem ballots today -- and vote for Hillary. Why not keep her in the race? And if she turns out to be the nominee, then even better. At least that's one theory.

More theories later.

1:43 pm PST -- There are only two important questions going into today's primaries: "Can Hillary win?" and, "Can Obama lose?" We're unlikely to get answers to either question, perhaps not until the convention in Denver this summer. Here's why.

Hillary looked to be a lock as late as last Christmas, but her third-place finish in Iowa put the kibosh on all that. Now Obama looks like a sure thing -- but is he? Can he really win it all?

Recent polls "analyzed by Dr. James Joyner suggest that Obamania is fading in Ohio, and even in Texas. If Obama gets drubbed in both states, then Hillary will have the momentum going into the last primaries, including the Big One in Pennsylvania.

So how did Obamania turn into Baramorse? You'd have to ask Mr. Obama about that, but he might not be willing to answer. First, Obama was caught by the Canadian press playing on both sides of the NAFTA border. Obama tried to stonewall, then he tried a truly Clintonesque triangulation, and now he's just stopped talking about it.

Then, chillingly, Saturday Night Live turned against Barack. If you want to know how bad that is, imagine if The Daily Show had turned against... well, Barack Obama. Seriously? I am serious. Only after SNL started making fun of the kid glove treatment the MSM has given Obama, did they start asking the tough questions.

And then there's the strange case of Obama's unsavory friend, which the press has finally started sniffing around.

All said, Obama is finally starting to be treated like a real candidate -- but perhaps one with a glass jaw.

So maybe Obama can lose. But the other question remains. Can Hillary win? Maybe. Earlier today, I identified the five steps Clinton needs to take to nab the nom. Here they are:

• Five-plus point wins today in Texas and Ohio.

• Pennsylvania.

• A winning credentials fight over Michigan and/or Florida.

• A few hundred Superdelegates suffering from Baramorse.

• Divine intervention by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I was kidding about that last item, but just barely.

How will it all turn out? Tune in tonight for the results, analysis, and a very strong cocktail.