With an increasingly defiant tenor, Clintonites are talking about Hillary's strength in the 24 February 5 states that will almost surely determine the nomation. Those states include New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Georgia. But the motherlode is California, which awards a whopping 370 pledged delegates. (By comparison, New York offers 230 and Massachusetts just 93.) As Noam notes below, the Hillary campaign is counting on the fact that many of these February 5 primaries are closed to Obama-loving independents to rescue them. 

Clintonland is especially bullish on its prospects in California, where Hillary has been crushing Obama in the (pre-Iowa) polls. Wariness of Obama among Hispanics, who make up about 14 percent of the state's Democratic electorate, gives the Clintons added cause for hope.

But if Hillary is banking on California, she may be in for a letdown. That's because California is not one of those closed primaries. Worse than that, not only do Democrats welcome indies to vote there, the California GOP closed its primaries to them.

September 2007 poll

Bizarrely enough, then, if independents carry Obama to a race-clinching victory in the Golden state, it may turn out to have been the California GOP that shattered Hillary's candidacy once and for all. 

P.S. Another downside of the Feb. 5 strategy: The third-biggest delegate prize that day is Illinois, with 153 pledged delegates. (I think pledged delegates is the relevant metric here, as opposed to at-large and unpledged delegates. Please correct me if I'm wrong.) Even though it's Hillary's home state--or one of them, anyway--it doesn't take a genius to figure out who the favorite in Illinois will be.

[Thanks to reader KB

Michael Crowley