Monday, May 19, 2008

Will Obama declare victory tomorrow night?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From yesterday's NYT:

Senator Barack Obama has chosen to spend Tuesday night not in Kentucky or Oregon, the two states that will be holding their primaries that day, or even at his home in Chicago. Instead, Mr. Obama’s staff announced on Saturday, he will be returning to Iowa, where he won the Democratic caucuses way back in January and has at least two good reasons to revisit now.

Much more than nostalgia seems to have motivated that decision. If things continue to go as well for Mr. Obama this week as they have so far this month, with a romp in North Carolina, a strong showing in Indiana and daily growth in his support among party superdelegates, he could actually end up securing a majority of pledged delegates from nominating contests sanctioned by the party.

Hillary supporters like a guest poster at Taylor Marsh's pro-Hillary blog are having fun with this, comparing a possible Obama victory speech to Bush's Mission Accomplished fiasco -- which is pretty stupid: as if the Democratic primary season, which is almost over, is in any way comparable to the Iraq War and Occupation, of which there is no end in sight.

As for me, an Obama supporter, I tend to agree with CLF's Kyle Moore: The race is pretty much over. Barring some last-minute scandal, Obama will be the Democratic nominee for president. (And, yes, an argument can be made that the race was over back at the end of February, though I think Kyle's point overlooks the various scandals that Obama successfully weathered during the six-week campaign in Pennsylvania, scandals that could have brought him down.) But it would be awfully presumptuous of him to declare victory tomorrow night.

After all, the race remains astonishingly close. I do not make too much of West Virginia -- yes, it was a big win for Hillary, but no one would be talking about it if it had been just another Super Tuesday state, and I continue to make the case that Hillary remains a very strong candidate for whom victories here and there, even over Obama, should not be surprising -- but there is likely to be a split tomorrow. Hillary will win Kentucky, but Obama will win Oregon. Hillary will then win Puerto Rico (June 1), but Obama will win South Dakota and Montana (June 3). True, Obama has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, as well as a lead in superdelegates, as well as a lead in the popular vote (and, no, I'm not including Florida and Michigan -- Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan and the candidates did not campaign in Florida), and, true, tomorrow's results likely won't change anything in any meaningful way, but there is no need for him to risk deepening the current divisions in the Democratic Party. It would be far more effective for him to let the media and his surrogates talk about "victory" -- and, in Iowa, where it all began, to reach out to Hillary and her supporters, to focus on the general election campaign ahead, and to present himself, without being explicit about it, as the one behind whom Democrats, as well as independents and disgruntled Republicans, can unite.


For more, see Chris Bowers at Open Left. The race is indeed over: "It has been a hell of a ride, and I like where we are. It is time for delegate math to be but aside, and for electoral math to take center stage." (Chris thinks Obama will declare victory. Again, I'm not so sure he needs to. But perhaps he can find an artful way of declaring victory -- of implicitly declaring it. After all, he's an impressive orator. Surely he can get the point across without actually having to spell it out.)


Just a thought: Could there be a deal between Obama and Hillary? What if she were to bow out early in the evening following her win in Kentucky and he were to thank her and "declare victory" later on, once the returns from Oregon start coming in and the media project him the winner? Now that would be a graceful end to what has been, at times, a bitter race. (Even better, what if she were to join him in Iowa? -- two historic candidates together at last, a party healed and united at once. Highly unlikely, I know. Pardon my fantasizing.)

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