Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The day after Super Duper Tuesday: Reflections on the Obama-Clinton race

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If you missed my live-blogging of Super Duper Tuesday (i.e., the Indiana and North Carolina primaries), with extensive commentary, see here.

Here are some interesting items in the news:

1) At HuffPo, Lawrence O'Donnell is reporting that Hillary will drop out by June 15. Which is to say, she will stay in the race through the remaining primaries but not contest the nomination all the way to the convention. For what it's worth, O'Donnell's source is "[a] senior campaign official and Clinton confidante."

Hillary is still talking about staying in the race, but what else is she going to say?

Steve Benen's take: "Listening to pundits last night and this morning, there was a sense that top Clinton aides and allies would go to the senator, congratulate her on a job well done, and argue that it’s time to wrap things up and make a graceful exit."

Of course, a lot depends on what the superdelegates do. Hillary can look ahead to likely victories in three of the six remaining contests -- West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico -- but a surge of superdelegates to Obama could force her out of the race before June 15.

2) Speaking of superdelegates, the Obama "rollout begins," as TPM's Eric Kleefeld puts it. Obama picked up three more today. Hillary picked up one, Rep. Heath Shuler, who represents a North Carolina district Hillary won yesterday.

3) He isn't a superdelegate, but he's certainly a party elder. George McGovern, a former presidential nominee himself, has switched his support from Hillary to Obama in light of yesterday's results: "Hillary, of course, will make the decision as to if and when she ends her campaign. But I hope that she reaches that decision soon so that we can concentrate on a unified party capable of winning the White House next November."

4) Hillary may be vowing to fight on, but money, or the lack thereof, continues to be a problem for her. While Obama can continue to rack up contributions and spend furiously, Hillary has once again loaned herself a large sum: $6.4 million.

5) But why is Hillary vowing to fight on, given that Obama has a virtually insurmountable lead in terms of both pledged delegates and the popular vote (as McGovern put it, Obama has won the nomination "by any practical test")?

The Daily News speculates on the "ugly truth": She's the preferred candidate of racist, xenophobic, and otherwise hateful white voters. Obama is having trouble with white working-class voters, some of whom (and there is code at work here: "white working-class" can be a euphemism for much worse) are anti-Obama because they oppose (or hate) what and who he is, not what he stands for. Because Hillary has come to be the preferred candidate of the white working-class -- and will win West Virginia and Kentucky, which are demographically in her favour -- she has enough of a base to stay in the race (primary wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana are not insignificant, after all).

I'm not sure I buy the "ugly truth" explanation. While it's certainly true that many of Hillary's supporters are hatefully anti-Obama, it's not like she's running a campaign that expresses such hate. Indeed, what is also certainly true is that she remains an extremely strong candidate. She would likely have beaten anyone else for the nomination -- other than Gore, perhaps. But she was overtaken by the powerhouse known as Obama -- and, even then, she has beaten him throughout the country. If there is a reason to stay in the race, it is not to give voice to white working-class voters -- and her support is much broader than that anyway -- but to be handed the nomination by the superdelegates should Obama suddenly falter.

(Then again, the Clinton campaign is making the race argument, as TPM's Greg Sargent is reporting: "On the Hillary conference call, Hillary chief strategist Geoff Garin made the case for her electability in some of the most explicitly race-based terms I've heard yet. Garin argued that the North Carolina contest, which Obama won by 14 points, represented 'progress' for Hillary because she did better among white voters there than she did in Virginia." So it's "progress" to win more of the white vote and to lose more of the black vote? Is Hillary the candidate of electoral segregation? This isn't quite the "ugly truth" explanation, but it does suggest that the best case for Hillary is a racial one. How sad, and pathetic, that her candidacy has come to this.)

As this article suggests, Clinton insiders are talking about taking the race all the way to the convention. But, like their candidate, what else are they going to say?

Again, though, a surge of superdelegates to Obama and/or the party leadership (Reid and Pelosi (official), Gore and Edwards (unofficial)) urging Hillary to withdraw for the good of the party could end the race sooner rather than later.

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