Analogy Check: Is it 1984?

The Comparison
Pundits have noted parallels between the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama contest and another razor-tight Democratic battle: 1984's Walter Mondale-Gary Hart matchup. Clinton, like Mondale, entered the race as the well-oiled establishment choice, while the younger, looser Obama echoes Hart's call for a new generation of leadership.

Why It Works
In both, the inspiring upstart shocks the party by capturing more states. (Hart won 28 to Mondale's 24; at press time, Obama leads Clinton, 20 to 12.) Still, neither 2008 candidate is likely to win the 2,025 pledged delegates needed to clinch the nod, meaning the climax may also mirror 1984: with superdelegates deciding the outcome.

Why It Doesn't
Superdelegates and big-state wins put Mondale 623 ahead of Hart before the June primaries: hardly a nail-biter. Then 40 more supers put Mondale over the top. But if Obama's lead (about 130) holds, supers will face a tougher choice: the insider who (barely) lost the delegate battle versus the upstart who (barely) won.