The remarkable Democratic primary and caucus process of 2008 — the “campaign that wouldn’t end” — finally ends today, whether Hillary Clinton likes it or not, with primaries in Montana and South Dakota. After tonight, there’s nothing of any significance left on the calendar until the convention begins on August 25.
There’s been a lot of talk about what a long, drawn-out campaign it has been. (Remember when it seemed exotic to look past February 5?) I have a unique perspective on that, as the Iowa caucuses occurred the day after Becky and I came home from the hospital with our firstborn child. So we barely remember what our lives were like before this election began.
For Loyette, the situation is even more extreme. This campaign has literally been going on for her entire life. :) She was three days old when the first votes were cast; now she’s five months and three days. She’s more than doubled her weight, gotten five or six inches taller, and has changed from a tiny, dazed and confused newborn into a vibrant, happy, bouncing baby girl with a distinct personality and an ever-increasing set of skills. And all the while, the Democrats have been fighting over who’ll be their nominee. Remarkable.
Anyway… what are your predictions for today’s election? And when will Hillary drop out? Tonight? Tomorrow? Thursday? August 28? January 21? ;)
P.S. Remember how Mitt Romney dropped out, and endorsed McCain, at a speech in front of CPAC? Well, is it possible Hillary will drop out, and endorse Obama, at the AIPAC convention tomorrow? She and Obama are both scheduled to speak there tomorrow morning.
As Hillary huddles tonight in Chappaqua with her inner circle, I fear there’s a real risk of an echo-chamber effect taking hold, and the Hillaryland brigades convincing themselves of the logic of continuing the campaign even after Obama surpasses the magic delegate threshold. She’s being deliberately vague about staying in the race “until there’s a nominee” — what exactly does that mean, especially given that delegates can change their minds, and that the “magic number” itself is still in doubt? — but we’ll find out soon enough. If Obama clinches a delegate majority and Clinton doesn’t drop out, then we’ll know. If that happens, there’ll be no preventing a party-crippling floor fight. Once the train leaves the station, it won’t be stopped. It’s either this week or the last week of August, methinks.
The question is, does anyone in Clinton’s inner circle truly understand the depth of the backlash that would occur if she were to attempt such a thing? Do they realize it would be career suicide? Do they understand that these next couple of days represent her last chance to exit the race with some semblance of dignity, such that she and Bill might someday have a chance of rebuilding their image in the party? Or are they so myopic at this point that they’ll fall under the spell of their own talking points?
Even if Hillary & co. don’t truly believe their own rhetoric, they’d better be careful: their words may become increasingly difficult to back away from. When you’ve got supporters chanting “Denver! Denver!” (not to mention “McCain! McCain!“) and fundraisers saying “August, and no earlier,” how do you bow out gracefully — even if you want to — without leaving those folks feeling betrayed? Particularly when you’ve been casting your argument in terms of “upholding bedrock principles” and saving the country from certain doom? If she doesn’t at least begin the process of standing down and backing off tomorrow night, the sheer force of momentum produced by her “fighting” rhetoric may carry her all the way to Denver, whether she means it to or not.
P.S. On a somewhat related note, it’s incredibly frustrating to keep reading bogus reports — from legitimate journalists in mainstream newspapers! — about how the Obama campaign may “reach deeply into its well-stocked coffers” in order to repay Clinton’s campaign debt. There’s only one small problem: it’d be illegal for Obama to do anything of the sort, as noted here:
Obama is not allowed to take millions of dollars from his own campaign and give them to Clinton’s campaign. The most his campaign could legally give would be $2,000. Any deal to help Clinton with her debt would have to be in the form of Obama helping to raise additional money on Clinton’s behalf.
This is a very basic piece of essential information, yet it keeps getting utterly ignored by “reporters” when they “report” on this issue. Such inexcusably sloppy reporting is journalistic malpractice, plain and simple.
Barack Obama needs 25 superdelegate endorsements today and tomorrow — maybe a few less than that, depending on his Montana and South Dakota margins — to clinch an outright delegate majority in time for his St. Paul victory speech tomorrow night.
Can he do it? As of this writing, he’s gotten two today, so he needs 23 more. Check this link or Halperin for updates throughout the day, as I’m sure there will be more endorsements. Also keep in mind, it isn’t the "net" that matters, but the absolute number for Obama.
One key question is when the "Pelosi club" superdelegates, who’ve said they’ll endorse the pledged-delegate winner, will specifically announce for Obama, who has already secured the pledged-delegate majority.
As for those in the alternate Hillaryland reality who want to trump the pesky delegate count by relying on a fundamentally flawed, inherently illegitimate, hotly disputed, and at best extremely narrow "popular vote" victory, here’s a handy popular vote scenario tester, where you answer various questions about how the vote should be counted, and the tally updates automatically. There are a grand total of 972 possible scenarios. :)
P.S. Baltimore Sun columnist Paul Rogat Loeb makes an excellent point about Hillary’s phony "popular vote" claims:
Given the bitterness of so many Hillary Clinton supporters that the woman they thought would be America’s first female
president will not be, the more they hear the suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama’s
win is illegitimate, the more likely they are to bolt. If Senator
Clinton’s voters embrace the story that "a man took it away from a
woman," denying her a victory she deserved, they’re at risk of staying
home come November, or holding back from the volunteering and
get-out-the-vote efforts necessary for the Democrats to prevail.
why it’s so unfortunate that Mrs. Clinton continues to claim that "we
are winning the popular vote." Because that statement is a lie - and it
undermines every word she has recently spoken about the need for the
party to come together. …
Every time Mrs. Clinton claims she has a popular majority, she’s
shattering whatever cease-fire exists and making it that much more
likely that her supporters will stay home in November. If she really
wants a united party, she needs to stop, and the superdelegates need to
hold her accountable.
P.P.S. On a barely related note, Politico quotes a Clinton aide as stating, "ItÃƒÂ¢Ã‚â‚¬Ã‚â„¢s clear to us that Barack Obama has won the Drudge Primary, and it’s one of the most important primaries in this process." Hmm, does that make Matt Drudge a super-duper delegate?
UPDATE: Obama is definitely hoping to clinch tomorrow:
Looking to bring finality to the Democratic presidential campaign,
Barack Obama worked furiously Monday to win over enough superdelegates
to clinch the nomination with the final primaries Tuesday.
Obama wants to formally kick off his general election campaign against
Republican John McCain in a victory speech Tuesday night as the final
primary campaign polls close in South Dakota and Montana.
"Senator Obama is trying to line up people that are going to
come out for him tomorrow during the day so that he’ll have enough that
puts him over the top that he can declare victory tomorrow," said
Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, one of about 200 superdelegates under
pressure to take a side in the contest.
For what it’s worth, the polls close at 8:00 PM EDT in eastern South Dakota, 9:00 PM in western South Dakota, and 10:00 PM in Montana. Obama’s rally in St. Paul is scheduled to begin at 9:00 PM EDT, but I assume he won’t be speaking until sometime after 10:00. (Montana is expected to be a landslide, so it’ll probably be possible
to declare it for Obama — and award him 9 delegates right off the bat
– immediately after the polls close. [UPDATE: Or maybe not?])
Oh, and about those superdelegates: 15 of them, all U.S. Senators, are meeting this afternoon to decide what to do. I imagine a mass Tuesday-morning endorsement by the remaining undeclared senators could go along way toward bringing a few more supers along and putting Obama over the top by 10:00 PM tomorrow.
What happens after Obama clinches the delegate majority this week? Well, on the one hand…
Clinton campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe tells my colleague Ken Vogel in San Juan that Hillary Clinton will Ã¢â‚¬Å“probablyÃ¢â‚¬Â continue a retail-level campaign operation after TuesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s primaries regardless of what happens in them.
Team Clinton also wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily consider the campaign over if rival Barack Obama soon reaches the 2,118-delegate threshold necessary to clinch the nomination. …
[McAluiffe said,] Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to get through TuesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s votes. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to see where we are, and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to look at all of our options. Every option is on the table.Ã¢â‚¬Â …
And he hinted that the campaign might be targeting some superdelegates committed to Obama. … Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just remember: No superdelegate is bound until they vote at the convention.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Members of Hillary Clinton’s advance staff received calls and emails this evening from headquarters summoning them to New York City Tuesday night, and telling them their roles on the campaign are ending, two Clinton staffers tell my colleague Amie Parnes.
The advance staffers — most of them now in Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Montana — are being given the options of going to New York for a final day Tuesday, or going home, the aides said. The move is a sign that the campaign is beginning to shed — at least — some of its staff. The advance staff is responsible for arranging the candidate’s events around the country.
With the future of her campaign in doubt, Clinton hasn’t announced her plans for the final election night of the primary cycle or beyond, but the aides said she would stage her election night event in New York City.
Her home state sounds like a great place to make a concession speech, no? [UPDATE: According to Ben Smith, Hillary’s election-night speech will be "at Baruch College in Manhattan. A Clinton source says it’ll be ‘valedictory’ but she seems unlikely to actually drop out and endorse Obama tomorrow." Meanwhile, one of Hillary’s top supporters, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, says she should concede after tomorrow’s elections.]
Anyway, I don’t think anyone knows what Hillary will do yet — I doubt she herself has even finally decided — but it’s quite possible that McAuliffe’s tough talk is largely posturing for negotiating position. Consider this report from over the weekend:
Hillary Clinton will be offered a dignified exit from the presidential race and the prospect of a place in Barack Obama’s cabinet under plans for a "negotiated surrender" of her White House ambitions being drawn up by Senator Obama’s aides.
Hmm… peace with honor in
Vietnam Hillaryland? Well, hey, it could be a good test run for ending the war in Iraq. :) More after the jump.
Above, a pretty sunset in Knoxville. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, Hillary ended up winning by about 142,000. By my armchair calculations, Obama still leads by 35,000 in the count that includes the caucus states, Florida & Michigan, and counts Uncommitted for Obama.
UPDATE: My armchair calculations were a bit off; Real Clear Politics puts Obama’s lead in that count at 44,605.
Basically, barring huge upsets in South Dakota and Montana (both in turnout and in result), Clinton will only be the “popular vote winner” in the counts that either: a) give her the benefit of a Soviet-style, 328,309 to zero “victory” in Michigan, and/or b) exclude and thus effectively disenfranchise the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington, in direct contradiction of her recent statement that “I want to be sure that all 50 states are counted,” not to mention her 2007 pledge to snub the Michigan and Florida primaries because of the “unique and special role” played by, among others, Iowa and Nevada, which she now excludes from her count.
With 14% percent of the precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama by 67% to 33% in Puerto Rico — and, more importantly for Hillary’s hopes of a “popular vote” win, by a raw vote margin of 22,253 votes to 10,924 votes. So far, then, the results corroborate anecdotal reports of surprisingly low turnout.
If we assume that 14% of the precincts means roughly 14% of the votes, and if we further assume that the margin will remain roughly constant across the remainder of the island, Hillary’s current 11,329-vote edge translates into roughly an 80,000-vote victory, which is not nearly enough to earn her an arguably plausible “win” in the national popular vote count (barring major upsets in South Dakota and Montana).
Even if Hillary’s margin ends up being 100,000 or 110,000, it won’t be enough. Hillary needed her Puerto Rico margin to get well into the 100,000’s to have any shot at winning the national “popular vote” without the benefit of a) a Saddam Hussein-style, 328,309 to zero “victory” in Michigan and/or b) the indefensible exclusion of four caucus states that held valid elections.
Bottom line: unless overall turnout and/or Hillary’s support is much higher in the precincts that haven’t reported yet, Hillary now has virtually no chance of earning a claim on the popular vote that isn’t facially ridiculous, undemocratic and absurd.
UPDATE: With 56 percent of the precincts reporting, Hillary now has roughly a 70,000-vote lead, which extrapolates to approximately 125,000. Still not enough unless you only give Obama his “exit poll share” of the Uncommitted vote in Michigan, and maybe not even then, depending on what happens in South Dakota and Montana. Also, given that the DNC gave Obama more than his share of the Uncommitted vote, and given that Obama unquestionably would have gotten more votes in a “real” primary than Uncommitted got, I’d say a count that gives him only a 73% share of Uncommitted stretches the definition of “arguably plausible” somewhat. But that’s the only arguably plausible count — or perhaps arguably arguably plausible? — that Hillary now has a shot at.
After yesterday’s Rules & Bylaws Committee decision, Obama has 2,052 delegates (including Edwards pledged dels who have declared for Obama), and the new “magic number” is 2,117. That puts him 65 away from clinching the nomination.
Assuming conservative projections of 22 pledged delegates in Puerto Rico today, and 8 each in South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday, he needs 27 more delegates — out of 218.5 undeclared superdelegates and Edwards pledgees.
The only question, really, is whether he’ll get those 27 delegates by the time he takes to the stage in Minnesota Tuesday night, so he can declare victory then and there. I wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of supers declare for Obama within, say, an hour after the polls close in Montana and Souta Dakota.
One thing he won’t necessary wait for, before declaring victory, is a Clinton concession. Reportedly, however, Clinton is coming to terms with the fact that she’s going to lose, so a concession may actually happen.
Politico’s Ben Smith looks at where things stand after all sides — the Clinton camp, the Obama camp, the Florida folks and the Michigan folks — made their arguments to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.
Leave [Scott McClellan] alone. He wrote a book. It is true or untrue, accurately reported or not. If not, this will no doubt be revealed. It is honestly meant and presented, or not. Look to the assertions, argue them, weigh and ponder. …
The book can be seen as a grenade lobbed over the wall. Thus the explosive response. He is a traitor, turncoat, betrayer, sellout. If he’d had any guts he would have spoken up when he was in power. … But those damning him today would have damned him even more if he’d resigned on principle three years ago. [The right]Ã¢â‚¬â€and the administrationÃ¢â‚¬â€would have beaten him to a pulp, the former from rage, the latter as a lesson: This is what happens when you leave and talk. …
When I finished the book I came out not admiring Mr. McClellan or liking him but, in terms of the larger arguments, believing him. One hopes more people who work or worked within the Bush White House will address the book’s themes and interpretations. What he says may be inconvenient, and it may be painful, but that’s not what matters. What matters is if it’s true. Let the debate on the issues commence.
For anyone trying to figure out when exactly to tune in to Wolf Blitzer, Wolf Blitzer this weekend, here is the schedule:
Saturday: DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee meets to rule on Florida & Michigan challenges. Oral arguments begin at 9:30 AM EST. After a lunch break, RBC members will "consider and debate the challenges" in the afternoon. As many as 368 delegates — 313 pledged, 55 super — are at stake. More on the numbers here.
Sunday: Puerto Rico votes. The polls are open from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM EST. 55 pledged delegates are at stake. As for the "popular vote," depending on how you do the math, Hillary Clinton needs to win by more than 113,000, more than 177,000, or more than 268,000 votes to have a shot at staking any sort of arguably plausible claim on a popular-vote "victory." (Of course, the "popular vote" is inherently illegitimate, and moreover, counting every vote isn’t such a good idea for Clinton anyway. But the question right now is whether she’ll even have an argument, not whether it’s a winning argument.)
My blogging on these events will probably be rather light, as my parents are in town this weekend.
Will John McCain lose the presidency because of the Arab-American vote?
Arab-Americans are both very likely to vote — their turnout is 20
percent higher than that of the general population — and they are
concentrated. Two-thirds of them live in just 10 states, including the
swing states of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In
Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, Arab-Americans have made up 2 percent
of the electorate in recent elections. That sounds like a small
proportion, but in a close race it can make a difference. In 2000, Bush
won the Arab-American vote over Gore by 7.5 percentage points. … [This year, however,] Zogby polling has found that a strong majority of Arab-Americans now favor Obama.
(Hat tip: Sullivan.)
There are some indications that Hillary Clinton is planning on sticking around past next Tuesday. Specifically, the reporters embedded with her campaign "received an email Thursday afternoon informing [them] they could sign up for travel through June 6 on the campaign website." (Hat tip: Halperin.)
Notwithstanding this, I predict she drops out on Thursday (the 5th). Obama will reach the "magic number" — however it’s defined — either Tuesday night or Wednesday (with additional superdelegate endorsements), thus well and truly clinching the nomination. At that point, the pressure on Hillary to withdraw will become intense and almost universal among party leaders outside her circle of sycophants and rabid supporters.
If she presses on, using Michigan and Florida as her phony rationale for doing so — and, yes, it’s phony even if she genuinely believes it, having convinced herself of her righteousness — it’ll be career suicide (and quite possibly party suicide). Which doesn’t mean she won’t do it, but I’d bet against it. All things considered, I suspect this "schedule" is mostly for show.
Michigan Democrats’ argument to the Rules & Bylaws Committee is surprisingly reasonable — certainly moreso than the nonsense Hillary’s people have been spouting. In particular, I hadn’t previously heard the argument that the DNC "selectively enforce[d] its calendar rule," penalizing Michigan and Florida but not New Hampshire (even though all three violated the calendar), and that this selective enforcement is what forced Michigan’s hand.
I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that interpretation of events — indeed, I suspect Michigan was just looking for an excuse to cut in line — but on its face, it sounds reasonable, and actually does provide an arguably legitimate, rather than merely demogogic, case for lifting the delegate-stripping penalty.
However, I take issue with this statement, at least as it applies to the proposed solution of cutting Michigan’s delegation in half:
To penalize Michigan … would jeopardize our chances of carrying Michigan and
winning the Presidency. … [W]e must insist on
MichiganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s full delegation being seated at the Democratic National
Convention with full voting rights.
The problem is this: the Republicans cut Michigan’s delegation in half, too! In fact, the GOP halved the delegations of Michigan, Florida, South Carolina, Wyoming and New Hampshire, all because they violated the party’s calendar.
It is difficult to see, therefore, how the Democrats would "jeopardize our chances of carrying Michigan" by adopting the exact same solution the Republicans chose — unless the spin wins out over the facts. Unfortunately, if the RBC halves the delegations and the Clinton campaign and/or the Michigan & Florida folks choose to demagogue the issue, that’s exactly what is likely to happen.
Last week, Matthew Yglesias wrote:
It’s really too bad that the folks behind Five Thirty Eight.com
have gone and created such a compelling website based around
state-by-state general election polling. It’s all really well done and,
as such, I can’t really bring myself to look away. But this stuff is
all really and truly meaningless.
He’s right. It’s May; the general election is in November. Making Electoral College projections based on current polls is a bit like projecting the BCS bowl matchups based on the AP poll in Week 2. It’s candy for political junkies (hence my glee when these maps first started appearing), but it’s not terribly informative, and it’s certainly not anything to base important decisions on. Thus, it’s rather silly for Clinton to be sending out pollsters’ maps to the superdelegates, using them to argue that she’s more electable than Obama.
Underlining this point today on his Politico blog, Ben Smith offers an Electoral College projection from May 28, 2004 — four years ago yesterday — that showed Kerry beating Bush, 327-211. See, that proves Kerry’s electable!
An awful lot can, and will, change in the five-plus months between now and the election. Most people don’t start seriously paying attention until after Labor Day, and the closest of the battleground states will be decided by swing voters who make up their minds in the final week of the campaign. You can learn a lot more from thinking about the likely dynamics of the race (e.g., young vs. old, change vs. experience, cash cow vs. cash-strapped, dovish vs. hawkish, liberal vs. conservative, and alas, black vs. white) than from looking at polls, whether national or state-by-state, at this early date.
UPDATE: Speaking of polls, this is interesting:
There are very few sure things in politics, but here’s one: Barack
Obama’s going to dominate the black vote in November. John F. Kerry got
88 percent, and it’s hard to see Obama getting less than 90 percent as
the favorite son of a core Democratic constituency in a great
But many polls aren’t currently showing this. Take the SurveyUSA
poll of Michigan getting some attention today. The poll, which has
McCain up 4 percentage points, has Obama winning among
African-Americans 62 percent to 26 percent with the balance undecided …
This seems just wildly unlikely as an outcome …
Whatever the cause, it’s something to watch for in general election
polling, and a way in which Obama’s support seems at times to be