The Tie Has Been Broken
by Todd Beeton, Wed May 07, 2008 at 01:32:25 AM EDT
Yep, I'm still up. Sorry it's taken me so long to weigh in with a sort of post-mortem on tonight, this has taken me longer to compose than I had expected and I now realize I should have put an overnight thread up. I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts - Todd
It was really sort of fascinating to switch between networks' primary coverage tonight. MSNBC has very much had an "it's over" vibe while CNN was pushing the idea that Hillary still has a shot. Also, internally within the MSNBC punditocracy it was interesting to see an Olbermann/Maddow divide, which rarely happens, Keith arguing that it's a matter of days until it's over, Rachel arguing that Clinton has for a long time had a "post-rational" claim to the nomination, so why should reality get in her way now?
This is-it-over or isn't-it division echoes the mixed messages we've gotten from Hillary Clinton herself tonight. First there was her speech, which, I have to agree with Timmeh, was at once a rallying cry and a valedictory; in it, Clinton made an awkward and blatant plea for funds, yet the post-primary fund solicitation e-mail her campaign sent out this evening was more "thanks" than "please;" and finally we have the news that Hillary Clinton will hold no public events tomorrow, yet we also get word from Andrea Mitchell that her meeting with superdelegates set for the morning is purely routine and she intends to be back on the campaign trail by Thursday after a fundraiser tomorrow night. What all of this accomplishes, of course, is to keep both options on the table so that they can see how the fundraising goes and how the media spins tonight before deciding whether to stay in or to drop out. There is a third option as well, which I believe was proposed on MSNBC earlier, which would be to do a sort of combination of both, i.e. campaign strongly over the next two weeks but more as an ally of Obama's than as a foe until May 20th when they both will likely once again end up winning a state and use his likely majority of pledged delegate status as the tipping point to bow out gracefully.
The upshot is that there is no way to spin away what happened tonight: Senator Clinton had a really bad night and Senator Obama had a phenomenal one. It's impossible to overstate the significance of what he accomplished, not only considering what he's overcome over the past three weeks but also considering how decisively he denied Clinton what she needed to continue to have a credible path to the nomination. To put it plainly, tonight was her final shot and she needed to win Indiana by 8-10% and to lose NC by 1-3%; in other words she needed to do about 10% better in each state than she did in order to keep Michigan and Florida relevant and the popular vote in play for superdelegates. Unfortunately, she was unable to do either. Zogby was right this time and Survey USA...and I...were wrong.
Which leads me to the conclusion, sadly, that I no longer see a real path to victory for Hillary Clinton and I now believe Barack Obama will be the nominee of our party.
Now this isn't in any way to suggest that Senator Clinton should drop out -- you know where I stand on whether this primary has been good or bad for the party -- it's only to say that I now believe that she will. I saw it on Bill Clinton's face as he stood behind Hillary during her speech tonight. I come to this realization with no small amount of disappointment but I'm left hopeful as well. I've seen a new man emerge in Barack Obama over the past few days. His speech denouncing Wright last week impressed me and stayed with me, even moreso than his speech on race in some weird way, because this time it wasn't so much about his words as it was about the emotion seething behind them. "He's alive!", I thought to myself, as I'd felt that Obama had gotten a bit detached and complacent in recent weeks. Then after complaining this weekend that I feared Obama was letting the right define him as unpatriotic without hitting back, I saw his North Carolina Jefferson-Jackson speech in which it became clear to me that he intended to do no such thing. I wondered if it would be the sort of turning point for him that the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson dinner last November represented, thinking privately that it just might be. I now believe that it was. For me personally, what the past few days have shown me is that Barack Obama wants this nomination and the presidency and he is going to fight for it. I wasn't convinced before. I thought I was backing the only real fighter in the race. But I am now.
So what now? My gut is that tomorrow is huddle time and Hillary Clinton's decision to drop out and endorse Barack Obama could come perhaps as early as this week. For one thing, with tonight's result Obama has shown superdelegates that they no longer really have anything to be skittish about with him -- he faced down the biggest crises of his campaign and went up against a stronger than ever Hillary Clinton and he came out the victor. As it turns out, Indiana wasn't the tie-breaker as Obama famously predicted, rather this whole night was, as it provided one contest on his turf and one on hers. And while, yes, technically Hillary Clinton won Indiana, this time one win wasn't a win and we all know it; no measure of campaign spinning can change that.
As all of this sinks in among superdelegates and voters alike and as a consensus solidifies that the race is essentially over, I suspect that Hillary Clinton knows that if she were to campaign as though she thought she did still have a path to the nomination it would look more foolish and sad than anything else. Hence my gut instinct that we may have a concession this week. At the same time, though, it would be a shame to deny West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon et al the excitement of campaign events that virtually every other state in the country has enjoyed. So what I'd personally like to see happen is for Hillary to endorse Barack and then for them boh to embark on a unity tour through the remaining states that have yet to vote AND, even more importantly perhaps, to Michigan and Florida. Their campaigning together would accomplish several things at once. It would prove to skeptics that both candidates are devoted to unifying the party against John McCain, it would hopefully serve to melt much of the anti-Barack sentiment among many of Hillary's staunchest supporters, it would allow the last few states the opportunity to get to see the candidates in person and to build on the excitement this primary has inspired AND it would allow the candidates to take the old unity ticket idea out for a test drive.
I still think an Obama/Clinton ticket is operative (not to mention best case scenario at this point) and as I wrote earlier, I think she was signaling to the world with her speech tonight that she'd be open to taking the VP slot. It actually makes sense for many reasons as Andrew Sullivan recently laid out in surprisingly compelling terms.
Would it happen in a million years? There are still many that believe not but I'm an optimist at heart. Which is why I also believe that Clinton supporters for the most part will join in embracing Obama as the presumptive nominee once he is so designated. It's a difficult transition to make, I know, but I'm finally at peace with it because for the first time I feel tonight delivered a clear verdict that Democratic primary voters have chosen Obama as their nominee; the tie has been broken. And let's be honest here, you and I know he is a far stronger candidate for having had Hillary Clinton as his opponent. And just as hopefully our ultimate Democratic ticket is stronger for having gone through this crazy extended primary season, hopefully the blogosphere can emerge stronger as well for having weathered our own internal battle.
Now, does this mean I am going to take my Hillary Clinton sticker off my bumper? Hell no, but it does mean I've brushed off my old Barack Obama window sign that I picked up at an event last spring and returned it to my window sill, the first of many expressions of support for the man I believe will be the nominee of our party and the next president of the United States.