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February 13, 2008

Potomac Primaries Wrap-up Post

Well, the votes are counted, the delegates awarded, and the Clinton and Huckabee teams have to be grinding their teeth behind their fake smiles. Obama swept yesterday's primaries, not just winning, but pounding Clinton in such a manner that she may just cry on national television (again). According to CNN's count, he has now taken the delegate lead with 1,215 delegates to Clinton's 1,190. Real Clear Politics has Obama even farther ahead, with 1,259.

McCain also cleaned up, with good numbers in all three states, though not so good as Obama's. Rumors of a Huckabee surge in Virginia turned out to be overstated. Even more importantly, according to McCain's campaign, it is now mathematically impossible for Huckabee to secure the nomination.

“He now needs 950 delegates to secure the required 1,191. But in the remaining contests there are only 774 delegates available. He would need to win 123% of remaining delegates.”

Huckabee, however, said he’s staying in the race.

As you know, he majored in miracles, not mathematics.

Meanwhile, this seems promising. Clinton hasn't congratulated Obama for two recent winning days, a sign--I hope--that she's not willing to make nice and put an end to the possibility of a Democratic crack-up.

Clinton congratulated Obama and John Edwards after their first and second place finishes in the Iowa caucuses. Obama returned the favor in New Hampshire, saying Clinton “did an outstanding job.” That courtesy continued through the early states.

But as the race has shifted to a delegate chase with dozens of states in play around the country, the notion of congratulating one’s opponent seems, for Clinton, to have fallen by the wayside.

I don't think that Clinton is going to be the one to stand down. She'll fight to the end and it will be ugly. The solution to this problem lies in Obama’s hands. He can choose to end the possibility of a race-tinged Democratic civil war by offering to join Clinton’s ticket. It would preserve the Democratic coalition. And it would put him in a strong position to run again in 2016.

But there's no chance of that if it looks like he'll be the winner of the primary contest, and on this morning it looks a whole lot like he's going to be the Democratic nominee. I say this option rests with Obama because there is only a slim benefit for Clinton if she were to do it other than the Vice Presidency itself and some derivative benefit from preserving her party, and thus no possibility that she would, in turn, offer to be Obama’s running mate. Clinton has already burned her bridges when it comes to reaching out to black Americans and it would be quite a surprise if he offered her the job.

More than that, this may be her last opportunity to make a creditable run for President. Unlike the Republicans, who most often select their candidates on a “you’ve paid your dues, now is your chance” basis (e.g. Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41, Dole, and apparently McCain), the Democrats like to see fresh faces at each election (e.g. Carter, Dukakis, Clinton, Kerry). On the Democratic side, once you’ve lost, your turn is up, just like what happened to Gore, Kerry, and Edwards most recently.

Is Clinton willing to play second fiddle, just for a chance to run again in four or eight years? I doubt it. This leaves her as the Senator from New York who took that job merely as a stepping-stone to the White House. This is her last chance and she knows it.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:55 AM

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