Why Is Clinton’s Back Against Wall? Nobody Prepared

The good news—the reason Mrs. Clinton’s supporters say they remain hopeful—is that she has proven she can bounce back from a loss.

Mr. Hedayat said that, as was ultimately the case in New Hampshire and California, Mrs. Clinton’s decades of building relationships with voters and activists and officials in those states “cannot be overcome by real or perceived momentum.”

Ellen Chesler, a major donor and friend of Mrs. Clinton in New York, made a similar case.

“There is obviously cause for concern,” she said. “But I think most people look at the calendar over the next month and realize that the states where she does well are yet to come and there is no reason to believe that she won’t continue to do well in those states—the pattern has been very well established.”

She added, “Anyone who really knows politics knows the difference between what has happened in these small caucuses versus when lots of people vote and vote directly.”

“We will do well again,” said Mr. Nemazee, “as we have every time we have had our backs to the wall.”

The scenario they envision is that Mrs. Clinton accumulates enough delegates in Ohio and Texas to compensate for any gap opened up by Mr. Obama in February, and that the race continues into Pennsylvania, where she has the backing of Governor Ed Rendell’s machine, and then into Puerto Rico on June 7, where she is expected to do well.

That protracted deadlock into the convention in August in Denver is not generally what the party wants—Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean took the extraordinary step of saying earlier this month that he’d like to see the candidates work something out between themselves before then, if necessary. Not that the Clinton camp is bothered by it.

“Dean can’t come in and say—to either Hillary or Obama—you’ve got to step aside before Pennsylvania has voted,” said Mr. Nemazee. “How is that possible f
or the chair of the party to say the people of Pennsylvania or Puerto Rico don’t deserve to have their votes counted, particularly since neither of the two will have prevailed by then?”

“The likely time to do intervention is the period after the primaries but before the convention if it’s necessary at all,” Mr. Schumer said.

But it’s not clear that all of Mrs. Clinton’s donors will have that much patience. Already, there seems to be no shortage of advice from them about how things ought to be run very differently.

“A lot of the donors and a lot of the people who know her are frustrated,” said one New York Hillraiser. “She has a tremendous asset in her supporters and surrogates. And she needs to do a better job and her campaign needs to do a better job of having a surrogate operation to get those votes out.”

The donor also criticized the way Mrs. Clinton had been forced to emphasize her experience for so long, and wasn’t permitted to reveal more of her personality.

“I would say to Mark and to others,” said the fund-raiser, referring to Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist and pollster Mark Penn, “‘Listen, there is not a single person in America today that doubts her résumé. No one doubts that she is the more experienced candidate of the two. But you’re not listening. You’re not paying attention. People don’t really give a crap now about experience. They want to see someone different.’”

It’s far from clear that all of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters, or her advisers, have arrived yet at that conclusion.

Jeffrey Appel, a New York-based mortgage specialist and a Hillraiser, rejected the conclusion that voters—especially the better-educated, wealthier Democrats who have gone in large numbers for Mr. Obama so far—weren’t being persuaded by Mrs. Clinton.