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Friday, April 25, 2008

Clinton Continues, But Why?

For the balance of the Democratic Primary, one question should trump all others: Who is the better general election candidate?

I understand the argument in both directions. (On Tuesday, I'm going to make talking point memos for both sides.) There is something to say about Obama's ability to turn out the youth as well as being the only candidate to be against the unpopular Iraq War from the start. There is something to say about Clinton having momentum and success with rural and middle class Democrats. They can both make cases that there are important voting numbers in their favor - Obama the pledged delegates, Clinton the popular vote (with Florida and Michigan).

Despite my short post outlining the improbability of a Hillary Clinton comeback in pledged delegates, there is still an avenue towards a Clinton victory.

Keep in mind that neither candidate will reach the requisite number of delegates without more superdelegate support. When superdelegates finally make their decision, they can look at whatever criteria they'd like, but it seems the strength of the party should be right at the top of their list.

So, who is the better general election candidate? If superdelegates think it's Clinton, they're within their right to vote for her.

And that's why she pushes forth, if she can just keep it close. She'll win Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky (all locks). With that kind of momentum, she will probably win Oregon, and one Bill Clinton visit to Puerto Rico probably wins her that commonwealth as well. If she can just keep it close, maintain her momentum, continue to poll well against John McCain in swing states, and win the popular vote... the superdelegates might just decide to push her over the top in a superdelegate breakdown that could look like 470-325 in favor of Clinton.

Of course, strengthening the party might not necessarily mean nominating the person with the better chance to win in November. They should be aware than if elitist superdelegates overturn the pledged delegates, states, and the popular vote (minus Michigan and Florida),then even if Clinton was the better general election candidate, such an overturn would make millions of Democrats feel incredibly disenfranchised, asking "Well what the heck was the point in voting, then?"

If this occurs, the effect goes beyond Obama supporters being upset. Remember, Clinton supporters seem much less willing to vote for Obama in the general (probably thanks to the tactics of the Clinton campaign) than Obama supporters doing the same for Clinton. The effect of a superdelegate veto on the nomination process could kill the Democratic Party down the ticket, with poachable Senate and House seats falling to the lock-stepped GOP.

Frankly, Clinton continues at her and the party's peril. She's clearly counting on superdelegates to push her to the nomination, and if that happens, the party could be headed to disaster in November, with consequences reaching far beyond who's in the Oval Office on January 20.

In the meantime, the party continues to fracture. This cannot be what Democrats had in mind in the closing months of President Bush's second term, but it is what they have.


I'll be back on Tuesday to draw up campaign memos for both sides in an effort to show you how both sides can make convincing arguments that they should be the ones nominated. See you then.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Democratic Primary Standings / Delegate Math

Barack Obama's lead in pledged delegates was cut from 161 to somewhere between 145 and 151. That's what Hillary Clinton's 9-point victory in the highly anticipated Pennsylvania Primary got her. Ten to sixteen delegates out of 160. She shaved, at best, 10% off of Obama's lead, in a state that was tailor made for her (second oldest state, loads of rural areas, 59% women, closed primary). Now, with only 408 pledged delegates remaining, she must win, at least, 277 (68%) of the remaining pledged delegates to win the pledged delegate count by one.

This, of course, is never going to happen, especially when one considers that her Pennsylvania win will be negated by Obama's North Carolina win on May 6. Even if, on that date, Clinton wins the smaller Indiana, Obama will undoubtedly extend his lead with the inevitable triumph in African-American and youth dominated North Carolina, to say nothing of the fact that Independents can vote in both those primaries, a boon to Obama. Thus, on the morning of May 7th, with 217 delegates remaining, Hillary Clinton will be right back where she was on April 21. She'll have a deficit of about 155, except this time, she will need to win 85% of the remaining delegates, the most improbable of possible situations.

And yet, Clinton continues. I'll address motivations and ramifications on Friday. See you then.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

McCain, Clinton, Obama, and the World

"We really need to bear down in these last few days. The whole world is watching." - Hillary Clinton; Scranton, PA; 4/21/08

She has it right. While I was separated from American news in England and Scotland last week, I noticed two stories that dominated European print and electronic media. Ironically, they both had to do with the United States.

First, United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to the U.S. was unsurprisingly covered. Brown, incidentally, is slowly but steadily growing unpopular with the British people for the same reasons they eventually became displeased with Tony Blair. Brown's continuation of Blair's "puppy dog" policies (acting as the right arm to President Bush) has frustrated them. The Bush Administration's foreign policy is less popular to the British than to Americans, though both are considerably more accepting than the countries and governments of mainland Europe.

Much was made of Prime Minister Brown meeting with not only the President, but also the three remaining presidential candidates. Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain each took time to meet with Brown and discuss the potential futures of their unique trans-Atlantic relationship. The British media covered this by depicting Brown simply segueing unadulterated allegiance from Bush to the next President.

Speaking of segues, Gordon Brown is not the only foreigner paying attention to the presidential candidates. The rest of Europe, in addition to the rest of the civilized world, is paying close attention as well. President Bush is universally despised, with a realistic estimate of his approval rating falling somewhere between 10 and 15 percent. Just like 65-70% of Americans, the world is counting down the days until January 20, 2009. (Two hundred seventy-two, by the way.)

The European media has simplified the differences in the candidates to a geopolitical version of CliffsNotes. For examples:

  • John McCain wants to continue Bush domestic policies and acknowledges a likelihood of U.S. presence in Iraq for decades, and sees no urgency or necessity for troop withdrawal.

  • Hillary Clinton greatly differs from Bush in domestic policies and brings her husband to the table (a plus for Europeans), but voted for the war, though she now advocates troop withdrawal.

  • Barack Obama opposed the war from the beginning, is the first non-white to contend for the Presidency, and is presented as the most different from President Bush, all qualities that the world considers fresh and desirable. (Make no mistake, the media's affinity towards Obama is not limited to American pundits.
It is no surprise that the world pays attention to the election of the world's sole military superpower. (Due to the last seven years, when describing the U.S., the word "superpower" must now always be preceded with the word "military" in order to be accurate. More on geopolitics and international relations during the general election.) Clearly, the administration that steers the oval office is relevant on the world stage.

So, yes, Senator Clinton, the whole world is watching today. Pennsylvania voters will trample the polls between 7 now and 8 pm. For those checking in today looking for a Pennsylvania Primary Preview and Prediction, I spared you both the awful avalanche of alliteration as well as an unusually uninformed opinion. I was not able to do healthy research for ten days so I could not accurately follow developments in the primary.

Therefore, a preview you will not get, though a prediction I will wager. I expect Clinton to win by nearly double digits (8-10), which is par for both candidates for the state of Pennsylvania. I'll break down the results by the end of the week, while looking forward to what's next.

See you then.
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