Clinton wins New Mexico, loses John Lewis

9 days after Super Tuesday, New Mexico finally got itself together, counted all the provisional ballots and recounted all the votes. And Hillary Clinton was confirmed the winner of the state's primary, with 1,700 votes separating the two candidates (which means that the provisional ballots broke Clinton's way). Only one delegate was at stake here, so the delegate breakdown is 14-12 in Clinton's favor. That's certainly not a big margin, though Clinton really cannot afford to lose any delegates at the moment. It also gives her a talking point, one more state under her belt at a time Obama is accumulating victories.

But Clinton got some terrible news tonight, when Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a major civil-rights era figure, switched camps and announced that he would cast his superdelegate vote for Barack Obama. Lewis had endorsed Hillary on October 12th, in what had been interpreted at the time as a setback for Obama's effort to conquer the black vote (he was usually trailing Clinton among African-Americans at the time). Lewis offered a lot of praise of Obama's candidacy but did not go so far as endorsing him (though he could in the coming days). For now, Lewis's rationale is that he wants to respect the wishes of voters in his districts (who backed Obama 3 to 1) and wants to facilitate a resolution of the Democratic showdown.

This is not only worrisome for Clinton because of the symbol of such a high-profile switch, but also because it could spell trouble for her super delegate strategy. For one, it shows that she has little hope of clinching the nomination unless she gets a lead in pledged delegate, or at least gets extremely close to Obama. She might have a superdelegate lead now, but the vast majority of those who are still undecided will not take the risk of rescuing her if she is trailing. Furthermore, Clinton is facing the risk of bleeding superdelegates in the weeks ahead, as Obama has taken a decisive lead after Saturday and Tuesday's voting. Clinton also lost 3 other superdelegates today, one of which only went all the way to endorse Barack Obama (Christine Samuels of New Jersey). And she better stop this exodus very quickly -- at least pleading with her supporters to wait until March 4th to jump off her ship or get on Obama's.

Lewis's switch is particularly indicative of the difficult position of black representatives who backed Clinton but whose districts went for Obama by huge margins. Lewis is only one example of this group of superdelegates who can ill-afford backing Clinton and disregard the will of their constituency. On the other hand, there are many superdelegates who are supporting Obama and whose constituency overwhelmingly supporting Clinton, for example John Kerry and Ted Kennedy.



  • a black congresman from a district with large black populations backing a black candidate... And it's a surprise to anyone? Talk about a slow news day

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 01:12  

  • That's just sad. I guess Kennedy will flip back now?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 07:50  

  • Kennedy's area didn`t back Clinton as overwhelmingly as Lewis's. So Kennedy may not feel any need to switch since MA was "only" a 15% loss compared to Clinton's regular 20-25% losses.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 07:51  

  • Still pathetic. At least Kennedy can say he backed the black guy if there's any backlash if Obama loses.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 15 February, 2008 08:21  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home