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February 28, 2008

Clinton Strategist Must Be "Reality-based"

So Clinton isn't going to bow out as gracefully as I predicted last week. I still think she's going to withdraw on March 4th or 5th because it's unlikely that she'll have any reason to carry on once the day's delegates are counted up. But if her performance at last night's debate is any gauge, she is going to be whiny, petulant, and downright scary on her way out the door.

Part of her problem may be that she's surrounded herself with people like strategist Harold Ickes, who shared this appraisal of the situation yesterday:

"We're on the way to locking this nomination down," he said of a candidate who appears, if anything, headed in the other direction.

"We think we are on the verge of our next up cycle," he reported, even suggesting the apparent impossibility that Clinton "may be running even" with Obama when all the contests are over. "This race is very close," he judged. "This is tight as a tick."

"For the love of God, we can't say there's not much chance here," Ickes maintained.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, Harold. I'm honestly baffled by what this guy is seeing that I'm not. To win, some very unlikely things would have to happen:

Clinton must win the remaining primaries and caucuses by large percentages.
Because the Democrats are awarding delegates proportionally, she cannot retake the lead without beating Obama by a very large percentage of voters in each state. Given his likely wins in Texas next week and North Carolina in May, that percentage is somewhere above 70%. No one in this race has won a contest by that much...except Obama (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Virgin Islands, D.C.). In fairness I suppose, Clinton won Arkansas with a tenth of a percentage point more than 70%.

Clinton could convince the vast majority of remaining undeclared superdelegates to support her.
This one is simple. Only 100 or so votes separate the candidates right now. 371 superdelegates have yet to pick a candidate. If she gets most of them, she takes the lead.

There are two problems here: first, though she started the race with greater superdelegate support and she still has more declared superdelegate supporters, they have been trending away from her for about two weeks now. Second, these folks aren't idiots; they're still largely undecided because they want to back the eventual winner. More than that, they rely for their power and relevance on the continuance of the Democratic Party. They're not going to do anything that would lead to a crack-up, like "stealing" an election, for example.

Clinton could arrange to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations using the results of their flawed primaries.
This isn't a sure win for Clinton: she only gains 99 net votes and 55 Michigan delegates could still chose to support Obama. In fact, it's likely that many of those 55 votes would pick Obama because these are the delegates selected by the "Uncommitted" protest voters. So she'd still need to get some new superdelegate supporters or win some primaries with stellar percentages.

As far as I can tell, this contest is done. Clinton's going to lose the delegate count in Texas for sure and it's looking more and more likely that she's going to lose the popular vote, too. In any case, it's going to be close in what Bill Clinton called a "must-win" state. Ohio and Pennsylvania were supposed to be double-digit wins for her. Polls in both states show that the gap has narrowed to about 5%.

I suppose she could carry on Huckabee-style after even Ickes realizes that she won't win, but I don't see the point.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 04:41 AM

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