by Todd Beeton, Tue May 27, 2008 at 04:06:50 PM EDT
Ever since the Obama campaign decided to walk back its intention to "declare victory" on May 20 having won the majority -- according to the metric of the moment at least -- of pledged delegates, they've been remarkably measured in their tone regarding the nomination fight and Hillary Clinton's candidacy. Sure there may have been a slight shift in tense when discussing Clinton's campaign, from present to past, but both Obama and David Axelrod, when asked about prospective VP choices or about Clinton's staying in the race, have been very respectful, refusing to suggest that she should drop out and even refusing to lay claim to presumptive nominee title.
Obama's aides said Monday the freshman senator is "now just 49 delegates away" from clinching the nomination and making history as the first African-American Democratic nominee for President.
"We're very close now," David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, told the Daily News. "When the primaries end, I think, we'll be where we need to be. ... We'll be at the number we need to claim the nomination."
According to DemConWatch, the current delegate tallies are Obama: 1977, Clinton: 1779 and the current threshold to win is 2025. After Puerto Rico votes on Sunday and then Montana and South Dakota vote on Tuesday, the candidates' delegate tallies, using the Obama projected delegate spreadsheet to estimate, will rise to around Obama: 2019, Clinton: 1823. But this tally ignores Florida and Michigan, whose delegations may be seated in some form as a result of Saturday's DNC RBC meeting. In that case, both the number of delegates each candidate has won as well as the threshold each needs to clinch the nomination will rise even higher. It's clear that no matter how Saturday goes, the Obama campaign is confident -- or at least they're projecting confidence -- that they will be ready to declare victory after Tuesday's votes thanks to that famous cache of supers who, up til now, have been reluctant to declare publicly their preference.
From Marc Ambinder.
Neither the Clinton nor the Obama campaign is clear what the DNC's rules and bylaws committee will do on May 31; depending upon how or whether they re-allocate delegates, Obama could wind up within to 20 to 30 votes of the nomination -- a situation rectifiable by a piddling performance in Puerto RIco, South Dakota and Montana -- or more than 100 delegates short, requiring solid performances in those states plus a few dozen superdelegate endorsements to put him over the top.
To prepare for that eventuality, the Obama campaign has, for the first time, really, begun to bank delegates. Sources close to the campaign estimate that as many as three dozen Democratic superdelegates have privately pledged to announce their support for Obama on June 4 or 5. The campaign is determined that Obama not end the first week in June without securing the support of delegates numbering 2026 -- or 2210, as the case may be.
In other words, it looks as though the popular vote appeals of the Clinton campaign that are likely to ramp up in earnest during the final two days of the campaign in the wake of the Rules & Bylaws Committee's ruling and a likely strong finish for Clinton in Puerto Rico, may largely wind up falling on deaf ears. The question is, will the popular vote argument end up having been the rationale for Clintons' staying in the race until the final vote has been cast -- something all proponents of counting every vote AND the 50-state strategy should be supportive of -- or will it be used to launch a larger fight beyond the first week of June, destination: Denver? Once Barack Obama passes the FL & MI-inclusive threshold of delegates and declares victory, as it will then be his right to do, it's my hope and expectation that Hillary Clinton will concede graciously. The last thing any of us should want is for one candidate to declare victory while the other insists it's not over. So far, we have been spared such a scenario and I really hope we won't be confronted with one like it. I suspect Hillary Clinton's VP chances and her post-2008 primary reputation depend on it.
Update [2008-5-27 20:14:24 by Todd Beeton]:Let me reiterate my feeling that Hillary Clinton's advancing a popular vote argument is a perfectly valid strategy since this thing is being decided by superdelegates; to the extent that she can convince them that she has in fact earned more votes and would be the better nominee against McCain in the fall, she should try to do so with all her might. But in the event that superdelegates, having seen the final vote tally and having heard Clinton's appeals, still decide in Barack's favor, we, and Clinton herself, it seems to me, should respect their decision, not defy it.