So after what I noted was a very bad night for the Clinton campaign and a good night for Obama, we have heard many voices now say the race is over for the Democratic nomination.
However, what's most telling this time is when you actually look to what Clinton's own supporters are saying.
For instance, one of her supporters George McGovern (someone who is no stranger to having party division damage the Democratic Party's chances of winning the Presidency) today has called on Hillary Clinton to withdraw. I won't be surprised if some of her other supporters follow suit.
You see as well among Clinton supporters on the blogs that they now see the race as essentially finished. For instance, if you go over to mydd.com (which I read every now and then for progressive commentary on American politics) you have one Clinton supporter (Todd Beeton) who regularly posts there who says "there is no way to spin away what happened tonight: Senator Clinton had a really bad night and Senator Obama had a phenomenal one. ...sadly I no longer see a real path to victory for Hillary Clinton and I now believe Barack Obama will be the nominee of our party. "
Another Clinton supporter (Jerome Armstrong) posts "As for Clinton's chances going ahead, they are minimal. I gave about a 10% shot after she won TX & OH, and upped that to 15% after her PA win, and around 20% a week ago. Now, it's slimmer than ever before. There's little doubt that, considering any marker, Obama is on the path to the nomination, now more than ever. Congrats to all his supporters on a good night."
But do I think the race for the nomination is over? Well the math is now very close to impossible now for Clinton even if Michigan and Florida are counted (and if they are, it's reasonable to presume that at the the least Obama will get Michigan's uncommitted delegates) - you can see CNN's delegate counter for the evidence (h/t).
I'm cautious never to say it's over until it's officially over as I know a week is a lifetime in politics and things can change in an instant, but if I were a betting person, I would be putting my money heavily on Obama at this point. Hillary Clinton will win big in West Virginia and Kentucky most likely, but she faces extremely long odds now. Just because Obama made a dumb comment about Indiana being a "tiebreaker" (and even then she barely won there) doesn't mean all the superdelegates remaining will believe that. She would have to at this point take more than 60% of the remaining pledged delegates AND more than 60% of the superdelegates in order to win and I think that's why her supporters are quite somber today.
The second question though is should she now drop out? I would argue actually that she can stay in the race until the end of the primary season without harming the Democratic Party and if something very dramatic happens to shake up the race that leads a huge majority ofsuperdelegates to flock to her, then she could at least in theory still win (but yes the chances are extremely remote at this point). However, in order to ensure she is not harming the party's chances in November by staying in she should stick to a few things:
1) Stop running negative ads directed at Obama. Given his huge front-runner status she's not going to be winning over superdelegates now by throwing the kitchen sink at the guy most Democrats now are sure is going to be the nominee. At the same time I would hope Obama stops running any negative ads directed at Hillary Clinton.
2) Continue to push for a fair solution to have Michigan and Florida's delegates counted. This has to be resolved or Democrats will pay the price in November. I think a fair solution might be to either count both delegations at half-strength (the Republicans did this and you don't hear the cries from their side about being disenfranchised) or if they are to count fully then at the least Obama has to be given the uncommitted delegates in Michigan (it is simply not reasonable to assume that Clinton should get to take such advantage of no one else being on the ballot there). This will have to wait until the end of the month until a decision is made but it must be addressed.
3) Focus her message now primarily on why John McCain needs to be defeated in November and why Democrats need to be united. By spending the next few weeks rallying her supporters with this message and still holding large rallies for the cause she would be promoting the same message Obama is. She actually started this well last night, but continuously saying "we" need to stop John McCain and by complimenting Obama. Of course she can continue to stress her own personal positives, but her supporters have to get the message loud and clear just how awful John McCain is and how badly the Democrats desperately need to win back the White House in November. If Obama becomes the nominee and she fails to get her supporters to back him, then even if the Democrats lost in November (which would be a catastrophe for Americans and the world at large at this critical stage) Democrats might not ever forgive her if it's perceived she didn't pull her voters to vote for the Democratic nominee. If by contrast she is seen as contributing to a Democratic victory even if she isn't on the ticket (which will be the subject of a later post - I think she should be on the ticket but I'm not sure it will happen) then Democrats won't forget it either and she would become Obama's heir apparent (if you say she would be too old, just look at McCain right now who took his party's nomination 8 years after losing the first go at it).
If she sticks to these things without going negative then I think she should be able to stay in the race as Mike Huckabee did on the Republican side until Obama reaches the magic number for an overall delegate majority (which could happen in the next month if enough superdelegates come off the fence) or either until all the states have voted (whichever comes first). If her and her supporters continue a negative path against Obama then I think it will backfire and the calls for Clinton to withdraw will grow louder so I think it would be in her own self-interest not to take that road. As of now though it looks like she definitely wants to continue on to West Virginia at the very least.
So it's far from clear if Clinton might concede anytime soon. Regardless there are still primary states left and the Chase for Change series will continue to cover them as they go on. So there will another edition next week when West Virginia votes. Till then I think it will be a tough week for the Clinton campaign.
UPDATE: So she hasn't followed my advice. This is quite disappointing. Her remarks were completely wrong and I think the calls for her to withdraw will get louder now.
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