4.18.2008

State of the race: Clinton needs patient superdelegates

"Bittergate" broke a week ago, and Hillary Clinton failed to move uncommitted superdelegates to her camp. "Will any superdelegates take the bite?" I asked last week, adding that "Clinton must be hoping that the media's hysteria is fed further if a few uncommitted supers now express reluctance to back Obama." A week later, the answer is clear. However damaging the scandal ends up being in the polls on April 22nd, the New York Senator has not succeeded for now in convincing her primary audience that they should rally behind her.

If anything, a number of superdelegates endorsed Obama over the past week. Wednesday alone, Obama got the support of 3 House representatives (Mel Watt and David Price of North Carolina, Andre Carson of Indiana). He was endorsed by a DC Council member yesterday. And a new NYT article reveals that superdelegates have not been swayed at all by the events of the past few days -- including Wednesday night's debate.

That Clinton needs superdelegates has been to support her in large numbers has been true for a while. What has also been true is that she needs them to be patient, leave her the time to make her electability case and, last but not least, leave Obama the time to implode. By the late summer, Clinton believes, Obama will have gone through so much new vetting that he will look unelectable (in short, Clinton is hoping for things like this to happen more often), thus leading superdelegates to turn to her to lead the party. For that to work, Clinton needs superdelegates to stay put for now.

Of course, the Clinton campaign was hoping that Wright and bittergate would trigger the Obama implosion they have been waiting for. The first week of the Wright controversy and this past week in which Obama's remarks were discussed are times Clinton was hoping superdelegates do not stay put; those were her moments to snatch votes. That did not happen -- and that window now seems to be closing. Clinton is back to hoping for patient superdelegates that will bide their time at least until June 3rd, if not until much later.

And this is where Howard Dean comes in. The Chairman of the DNC has been admirably neutral throughout the primary -- unlike other prominent "party elders" like Nancy Pelosi. Yet, Dean's latest plea to superdelegates goes directly against the Clinton campaign's hopes. Dean's position until now had been that superdelegates should announce their intentions by July 1st, allowing one candidate to cross a majority sometime in June, more than two months before the convention. Yesterday, Dean grew more firm: "I need them to say who they’re for starting now." The DNC is ready to put pressure on superdelegates to settle -- and that does not bode well for Clinton.

Yet, there is little evidence that superdelegates are ready to follow the Dean's wishes; quite the contrary, a large number are still telling the press that, not only are they not ready to make up their mind, but they are unlikely to do so before the primary season is over in June. This USA Today article published today contains a large number of quotes from supers who confess that they are biding their time -- including prominent Democrats like Joe Biden, who said, "There's absolutely no urgency for any superdelegates … to worry about closing this thing down." Added a vicechairwoman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, "Until America has (its) say, I'm going to wait to have mine."

Clinton has very small windows of time in which to convince superdelegates to move to her; when those are over, she needs them to be patient. She has failed to do the former, but she succeeded at the latter. We are now 4 days away from Pennsylvania: She survived the 6-week lull. Considering how low far behind Obama she is, it is remarkable that she managed to convince superdelegates to hold off.

Now, we are back to the voting -- and it was unclear whether Clinton would get this point when the 6-week lull started. From now on, Clinton has to survive every Election Day and do so in a way that puts doubts in superdelegates' minds. And until she gets such solid results, she needs to keep superdelegates patient. Certainly not an easy feat.

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24 Comments:

  • The fact that Clinton has been able to stop superdelegates from endorsing (presumbly Obama) is very admirable. You are right however that Clinton eventually has to get them to actually support her rather than just stay on the sidelines. I do think that unless Clinton loses PA or she makes a sweep of the rest of the contests (particulary North Carolina, as a true Obama implosion would just be his inabilty to win Clinton favored states but is inabilty to win states that do favor him) the primary will go all the way to June 3rd. I do think that after June 3rd her superdelegate stall strategy will start to breakdown because they will be immensive pressure for superdelegates to wrap up the nomination fight and start to focus on McCain.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 18 April, 2008 12:39  

  • The point is Clinton has not be successful at keeping superdelegates from endorsing Obama. He is within 20 of her on superdelegates. Compare this to early February when she had a lead of around 80. He rolled out 8 superdelegates this past week - a week with no primaries and bad news for him. She has gained exactly 5 superdelegates in 2 months - pretty poor going. Expect a lot of media attention when Obama over takes Clinton on superdelegates - for the first time.

    I think there could be a big movement after May 6ht when NC and IN vote. The three biggest states out of the 10 remaining will have then voted with only OR left as a meaningful state in November. (Kentucky will never vote Dem in Nov, Puerto Rico cannot vote in Nov).

    Even if some superdelegates want to wait until June I think sufficient numbers will declare so that Obama reaches close to 2000 and then the pressure will really be on when he is within say 20-30 delegates of clinching this thing.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 18 April, 2008 13:05  

  • The delay in endorsements is really only a mistrust of Obama. Hillary isn't actively doing anything. She's waiting on the sidelines for the hammer to fall on Barack and she'll naturally be the beneficiary.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 13:07  

  • Well, many of the supers are smart and know Hillary and her supporters are simply too polarizing and lying to be leading the party's efforts to regain the White House. I am not including ordinary voters as her base of polarizing and controversy loving, because it is apparent that Hillary's campaign strategies center on feeding voters falseholds so that they, having no time to do reality checks and Hillary hoping the media won't question her on her honesty and integrity, will simply vote based on controversies and not the issues of significane to the country.
    The debate on Wednesday illustrates Clinton's campaign tactics: win at all costs by pushing controversial issues to the media frontlines instead of attempting to prove her electability and creditibility. If she was "unfairly" attacked in PA. last year by Edwards and Obama, it was because the issue she was being attacked on was an issue in the minds of many voters, which is immigration, and it was not the mdoerators doing the attacking but the candidates themselves.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 15:33  

  • CNN's factcheck just busted Barack for lying again. McCain just labeled him a reckless liar too. Blaming Obama's untruthfulness on Hillary and calling her a liar isn't workin' too well for ya'. CNN is the biggest pro-Obama network out there. I warned you not to use the lying point. Barack loses way more than he gains.15:33- Your post is sloppy. Do over!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 15:58  

  • I don't know if patience helps Clinton as much as it just draws out the process, possibly to her detriment as her difficulty in overtaking Obama in pledged delegates becomes increasingly evident.

    Noam Scheiber says in his April 9 article "Slouching Towards Denver" in The New Republic: "Just about every superdelegate and party operative I spoke with endorsed Nancy Pelosi's recent suggestion that pledged delegates should matter most."

    If that's true (and I'll emphasize the "if), then there are a number of superdelegates who are waiting for the pledged delegate count to be decided before committing; they don't want to be accused of taking the decision away from the voters. But when the delegate lead looks all but insurmountable (or at least even more so than it already is), I think supers will start to jump. They'll have no excuse to wait after the primaries are done, and they'll be under a lot of pressure to make a choice.

    Though it's extremely unlikely Clinton will win the pledged delegate count it's still possible that she could do extraordinarily well in PA and NC. If she doesn't, I still wouldn't expect supers to commit next week even though a close PA win doesn't really help her; supers may not want to be perceived as knocking a candidate down after a win. After NC and IN, there will be very few pledged delegates left, and some supers might argue that a change in the pledged delegate lead is so improbable that it's not worth drawing out the process and start taking sides.

    My guess (and it's a guess) is that OR/KT on May 20 puts someone over the top, or gets it so close that it's essentially wrapped up (so I'm essentially in agreement with Mike and Jaxx).

    There's just no getting around the fact that the numbers are very, very tough for Clinton. Patience may change the timing, but it's unlikely it will change the result. It's hard for me to see this thing going much past the last primaries, which leaves plenty of time for the general.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 16:36  

  • Clinto needs about what?65%+ of the vote in EVERY remaining primary just to catch up in pledge delegates. This was true a month ago and will always be true.I beleive they call them "facts".Good nite dear.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 16:55  

  • You forgot Fla. and Mich. and unless Edwards gives in Barack gets nothing from Mich. The tighter the race remains the more suspenseful. If those states wouldn't make a difference it'd be easy to exclude them. Now it's ethically impossible. And dsimon-you lack ethical judgement as I've established. You can hope for a popular vote lead to hold up,but the race is likely to be lost by Obama.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 17:10  

  • Clinto needs about what?65%+ of the vote in EVERY remaining primary just to catch up in pledge delegates. This was true a month ago and will always be true.

    Yup. That's why I think the outcome won't change, even with patience on the part of the superdelegates. And that's why any win in PA that's not a blowout won't really help Clinton.

    But Clinton will probably win in PA, the race is still perceived by some as close, and the chance of some kind of blowup still exists, so I don't see why superdelegates wouldn't wait at least until NC to avoid accusations of taking the nomination out of the hands of the voters. Might even lessen the anger on the part of the trailing candidate's supporters to let the process run its course for a while; a few more weeks won't harm the party's chances in November.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 17:14  

  • You forgot Fla. and Mich....If those states wouldn't make a difference it'd be easy to exclude them.

    The manner in which they get seated will probably be determined by the delegate lead going into the convention. If the lead is big enough, they could be seated as is. But even if they could be, they probably won't be because there has to be some kind of sanction for breaking the rules--otherwise things will be even worse next time around (a scenario for which you have proposed no response).

    Now it's ethically impossible.

    It was always impossible in Michigan. Even Clinton said in October that the Michigan vote wasn't going to count for anything. And since so many Dems and independents voted in the open Republican primary there, no one--including the Clinton campaign--has offered a plan to deal with those voters fairly. They shouldn't be excluded, especially the registered Democrats. But the primary can't be open because it would be subjected to purposeful meddling. Again, no response which solves this dilemma.

    And dsimon-you lack ethical judgement as I've established.

    I think it's ethical to follow the rules or accept the consequences. And I believe you never responded to my question as to whether any state's vote in the general election would count if it were held two weeks before Election Day. So saying "they voted, so it should count" is clearly not sufficient.

    You can attack me as unethical, but that isn't going to advance any argument or change anyone's mind.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 17:23  

  • You can take the finding of unethical as an attack if you wish, but it was just a statement to cut off a repeat of your failed previous argument. Your question about the GE is absurd as there is a set date. The same would work for primaries. You'd prefer disparity and thereby confirmed your lack of ethical judgement. It's all just guessing since Obama is headed toward an implosion. It's just inevitable.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 18 April, 2008 17:38  

  • Anon of 17:38 (and I bet the same person who posted at 17:10 and 15:58). Maybe Obama does "lie" but Clinton lies as much if not more - so you cannot win that argument.
    Your heroine herself said that Michigan would not count - that is a fact. Don`t you think she should be consistent in her view on that? If you want a revote how would it be done and should states be sanctioned for knowingly breaking DNC rules?
    Straightforward questions which I would prefer you answer rather than make baseless comments and slurs.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 18 April, 2008 20:34  

  • Your question about the GE is absurd as there is a set date.

    And the DNC set allowable dates for primaries. They were broken by FL and MI. And there is still no response as how to prevent chaos the next time around if no penalty is applied.

    I'm not going to go over the same ground again. Done.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 18 April, 2008 20:45  

  • dsimon - this one person who always goes under anonymous will never lets facts get in the way of his comments (or rants). It is fine if he doesn't support Obama or is undecided or supports the GOP. What I don't like is just repeating tired comments and not answering well worded and relevant questions.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 18 April, 2008 22:02  

  • Yeah, I know. I guess I'm just fascinated by those who seem to have made up their minds no matter what. It's probably a vain hope, but I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe if one keeps pressing with facts and keeps asking for answers, it might lead to a little moderation next time around. Less dogmatism can create a better discussion and more understanding, even if there's no change in the ultimate opinion.

    Some self-awareness of how we tend to see things through our own lenses can get us to question ourselves and take a more nuanced approach. A little self-doubt can lead to a stronger position in the long run. It's the rare issue that's all or nothing.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 19 April, 2008 00:38  

  • dsimon, amen on 2nd paragraph, post 00:38

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 April, 2008 05:20  

  • A national primary was my first response. We don't have that problem with the GE because it is federal law. Dean has no authority over state government and neither do the candidates. The answer is clear. (Mike you should check in the mirror as you are the one putting out slurs. Your persistence on tearing down another more worthy candidate with charges your own candidate cannot withstand is simply foolish.) dsimon-failure to accept an answer does not excuse you from lying about not getting one. Just because you are not smart enough or too unethical to acknowledge an answer, doesn't mean that you didn't receive one. The dogma is all in your failed logic. You haven't answered how much of Obama's measly lead is due to independents? If more than the 3%, then your argument that more Democrats support him falls flat. Until you answer you cannot deny that Hillary leads among Democrats. (Tom-your stupidity is noted.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 April, 2008 08:36  

  • Tom-your tactic employed is that of mutually assured destruction. It has long been recognized to be a stupid one. Under your logic, you'd have no problem supplying nukes to Iran to counter the Israelis'. Fortunately for your Israel, we're a little smarter than that. Sorry to hurt your feelings, but that tactic is very stupid.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 April, 2008 09:08  

  • Obama gets Hamas endorsement. Thanks Lieberman.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 April, 2008 10:10  

  • A national primary was my first response.

    A national primary would be even more expensive than the general presidential race, which is limited to battleground states. Only candidates who had already amassed huge amounts of money could afford to compete in any single large state, much less in all states large and small simultaneously. If money in politics is bad now, a national primary makes it worse. And it unnecessarily narrows the field out of some promising but less well-known candidates; even with public campaign financing, a national primary would depend on big ad buys, not in-person scrutiny by voters. I don't think that would be a good process, though reasonable people may differ.

    Dean has no authority over state government and neither do the candidates.

    As I believe we discussed earlier, there were other options open to the state parties, especially in FL, regardless of what the state government did. Nor did Democratic officials offer much resistance to breaking the rules. And many Democratic government officials, party leaders, and voters (we don't know how many) may have preferred going early to going late after everyone thought things would have already been decided. Looks to me that a choice was made with knowledge of the possible consequences. The DNC committee reviewed the situation and came to that conclusion too: not that the party organizations were in total control, but that they hadn't done enough to oppose changing the dates.

    By the way, still now answer as to how to prevent complete chaos next time around if states are allowed to move up their primaries sanction-free. I think I've ask this one three or four times now. It would be nice to have an answer.

    [And as an aside, for all this hemming and hawing about MI and FL: if one could do a revote in MI and FL today, it would mean that instead of needing to win 65% all the way out to get the pledged delegate lead, she'd have to win 59.5% all the way out. So it would be slightly less improbable, but still improbable. She'd still likely have to rely on superdelegates to reverse the pledged delegate outcome.]

    You haven't answered how much of Obama's measly lead is due to independents? If more than the 3%, then your argument that more Democrats support him falls flat.

    I think the failed logic is on the other side because you haven't asked a question that's answerable and has several flawed premises to begin with. (Also, I think the popular vote number is irrelevant. No reasonable candidate would spend resources going after votes that did not lead to more pledged delegates. So it's the pledged delegates that should matter because they were the objective of every contest, not the popular vote.)

    I believe that you (again, it's hard to tell definitively when there's no name attached) admitted that you can't determine general election results against McCain from primaries, yet you seem to be saying that we should infer Obama's support among independents from primary results against Clinton. Once again, if you want to argue who is stronger against McCain with independents, you have to look at polling data about independents head-to-head against McCain. I don't know why you now seem to consider the Obama v. Clinton numbers to be relevant for the general election.

    But the only numbers that really matter are overall head-to-head match-ups against McCain. Any strength among independents and weaknesses with registered party members would be included in those results. And it's that total number that will decide things on Election Day.

    Those points really should end the discussion. But putting them aside, we also do not have any idea whether the independents who turned out in the states that happened to have open primaries are representative of the total independent population. Heck, turnout is low enough among Democrats for primaries; 30% is considered excellent. Also, some of the open primaries occurred when the Republican nomination was still in doubt; after it was settled, more independents may have chosen to vote in the Democratic primary rather than in a Republican contest that was already decided. So even the primary independent vote numbers will be skewed by circumstance.

    Furthermore, many states don't allow independents to vote at all, so even if you could impute primary support to general election support (which you can't), and even if you could assume that independent primary voters are representative (which you can't), the 3% figure would be inaccurate because they're barred from voting at all in states like NY and MD.

    Additionally, you seem to assume that if Obama is barely splitting the Democratic vote, then he won't get the Clinton voters in the general election and so he'll need overwhelming independent support to beat McCain. But that ignores the probability that most Democratic voters will vote for the Democratic nominee--otherwise, one could make the same argument if Clinton somehow manages to get the nomination: after all, she's split the Democratic vote too. Or if she's getting more of the Democratic vote, she's trailing because she's not getting the independent votes she needs. (It's the same fallacy as above, which assumes that if she doesn't get independent votes against Obama, she won't get them in a head-to-head match-up against McCain.)

    So the premise of the entire argument seems invalid to me because you can make the same point about each candidate: if Obama's support is mostly from independents, then he's not getting the Democratic support he needs for the general election. But if Clinton is getting mostly Democratic support, then she's not getting the independent votes she needs for the general election. Once again, these numbers really aren't relevant because they only tell us how Obama and Clinton are doing against each other; they don't tell us how they would do against McCain.

    And still no response to the most recent poll showing that Democrats and Democratic-leaners think Obama is the better candidate against McCain by 2:1. I don't see why that doesn't show considerable Democratic support for Obama, unless non-registered "leaners" make up a large portion of that poll.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 19 April, 2008 11:25  

  • Yawn. You're just not able to admit defeat. Too expensive,unanswerable, you fail miserably and it highlights Obama's weakness. The only polling that matters are the actual vote counts. Just what we need in the WH, a spineless,empty suit that can't ethically justify anything and sees problems as unanswerable. Pretty pathetic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 April, 2008 12:38  

  • You're just not able to admit defeat. Too expensive,unanswerable, you fail miserably and it highlights Obama's weakness.

    First, to impute my arguments to Obama seems like a stretch, doesn't it? I never met the guy. Do I impute your repeated refusal to answer certain questions to Clinton?

    But it seems to me I try to respond to every point, but you respond to few of mine except with name-calling. You don't explain how less-known candidates could fund a competitive national primary race. You don't explain how to prevent more chaos next primary season if sanctions are not imposed on states that vote early. You don't explain why the Clinton v. Obama vote, overall or among subgroups, would have any relevance in the general election (which, previously, you admitted it wouldn't, but now you think it does). You don't answer why the primary popular vote should matter, or whether it's even accurate given the variety of voting processes involved. I try to explain that to have a coherent answer, you first have to ask a coherent question, but you don't respond to my argument that your question fails that test. And you don't seem to want to look at any polls that disturb your assumptions. Even after repeated requests for responses on many of these questions, you provide none and give me nothing to respond to.

    Most importantly, you don't seem willing to do the research to answer your own questions. Usually the person raising an assertion has the burden of proof. Otherwise, we're off in fantasyland were anyone is free to assert anything regardless of its basis in reality.

    It's simply not possible to engage in discussion with someone who refuses to even try to raise flaws in facts or reasoning but just says "you failed." Saying something doesn't make it true; you have to back it up. When you're willing to do so, I'd be glad to interact again.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 19 April, 2008 14:53  

  • Please, you insist on not accepting clear answers and trying to claim ignorance of their existence. You are intellectually dishonest and any further use of you is a waste of time. You typify the Obama campaign and your weak mental skills have been a great help. I do have input into both campaigns. Thanks for participating.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 April, 2008 16:37  

  • Anon 16:37 you are the one with weak mental skills. Dsimon made many good points and questions. You come back with a short response with no facts or responses in it.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 19 April, 2008 17:57  

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