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Hillary Clinton Has No Chance Of Winning Democratic Nomination

March 21, 2008

I think this article is the most important one this week in the way it describes the lay of the land in the Democratic nominating process.  If you read no other ‘process piece’ this week, read this one.

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.  Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency. 

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory.   An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else. People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet

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The Democratic Party has 794 superdelegates, the party insiders who get to vote on the nomination in addition to the delegates chosen by voters. According to Politico’s latest tally, Clinton has 250 and Obama has 212. That means 261 are uncommitted, and 71 have yet to be named.An analysis by Politico’s Avi Zenilman shows that Clinton’s lead in superdelegates has shrunk by about 60 in the past month. And it found Clinton is roughly tied among House members, senators and governors — the party’s most powerful elite.

Clinton had not announced a new superdelegate commitment since the March 4 primaries, until the drought was broken recently by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and West Virginia committeeman Pat Maroney.Clintonistas continue to talk tough. Phil Singer, the Clinton campaign’s deputy communications director, told reporters on a conference call Friday that the Obama campaign “is in hot water” and is “seeing the ground shift away from them.”

Mark Penn, the campaign’s chief strategist, maintained that it’s still “a hard-fought race between two potential nominees” and that other factors could come into play at the convention besides the latest delegate tally —  “the popular vote, who will have won more delegates from primaries [as opposed to caucuses], who will be the stronger candidate against McCain.” But let’s assume a best-case scenario for Clinton, one where she wins every remaining contest with 60 percent of the vote (an unlikely outcome since she has hit that level in only three states so far — her home state of New York, Rhode Island and Arkansas).

Even then, she would still be behind Obama in delegates.

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To foster doubt about Obama, Clinton supporters are using a whisper and pressure campaign to make an 11th-hour argument to party insiders that he would be a weak candidate in November despite his superior standing at the moment.“All she has left is the electability argument,” a Democratic official said. “It’s all wrapped around: Is there something that makes him ultimately unelectable?”

But the audience for that argument, the superdelegates, will not easily overturn the will of the party’s voters. And in fact, a number of heavyweight Democrats are looking at the landscape and laying the groundwork to dissuade Clinton from trying to overturn the will of the party rank and file.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has not endorsed either candidate, appears to be among them. She told Bloomberg Television that superdelegates should “respect for what has been said by the people.” And she told ABC’s “This Week” that it would be “harmful to the Democratic Party” if superdelegates overturn the outcome of elections.

A Democratic strategist said that given the unlikelihood of prevailing any other way, Clinton now must “scare” superdelegates “who basically just want to win.”

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“I’ve heard people start to say: Have you looked at the vote in Ohio really carefully? See how that breaks down for him. What does that portend?” said the strategist. “Then they point to Pennsylvania: In electorally important battleground states, if he is essentially only carrying heavy African-American turnout in high-performing African-American districts and the Starbucks-sipping, Volvo-driving liberal elite, how does he carry a state like Pennsylvania?”

Her advisers say privately that the nominee will be clear by the end of June. At the same time, they recognize that the nominee probably is clear already.

What has to irk Clintons’ aides is that they felt she might finally have him on the ropes, bruised badly by the Wright fight and wobbly in polls. But the bell rang long ago in the minds of too many voters.

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One Comment
  1. Kathy Giannini permalink
    April 22, 2008 12:15 PM

    In the “post-McGovern” Democratic party, not only can Hillary win, Al Gore can win! The whole point of the superdelegates is to avoid the McGovern disaster. So if Obama doesn’t nail the big states — and there are quite a few that he hasn’t nailed — the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, can eliminate him as less electable. And if a candidate doesn’t like it, he should try to change the rules BEFORE running. Hillary Clinton doesn’t particularly like the fact that the two “losers” who represent Massachusetts in the Senate, Kennedy and Kerry, refuse to respect the will of the majority of Massachusetts voters. That’s how it is. In addition, superdelegates can change their minds as many times as they want up until the final vote. There is no math.

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