Despite West Virginia, this past week helped Obama turn away from primary fight

The number of uncommitted superdelegates decreased significantly over the week-end, getting Democrats 8 steps closer to settling their primary. Barack Obama picked up 5 superdelegates while Hillary Clinton picked up a net 3 -- and to make matters worse for the New York Senator she lost some pledged delegates:

  • Clinton's endorsements of the day are: 3 California add-ons (Caroyln Doggett, Dario Frommer and Dora Rubio).
  • Obama's endorsements of the week-end are: 2 California add-ons (Lou Paulson and William Quay Hays), 1 Kansas add-on (Lt. Gov. Parksinson), 1 Colorado add-on (former Denver Mayor Federico Pena) and Maryland DNC member Greg Pecoraro.
  • Also, Nevada Democrats selected their add-on superdelegate today by electing a union leader who pledged that he had not made up his mind between Clinton and Obama.
  • In pledged delegate news, Nevada's state convention was held yesterday and uneven turnout among Clinton and Obama's state delegates made Hillary lose a delegate, so the count now stands at 14-11 instead of 13-12 (remember, this is a state that Clinton won); in DC, a Clinton pledged delegate, Jack Evans, announced he would vote for Obama.
Jack Evans was the manager of Clinton's campaign in DC, so it is hard to fault her campaign for thinking he would be a reliable choice as a pledged delegate... His decision to rally around the Illinois Senator by pointing to his "momentum" is a clear signal that many in the Demoratic Party -- including figures who have the power to bring the race to an end, a group that includes people like Jack Evans -- are no longer willing to entertain a lengthy primary and are looking to put an end to it as soon as possible.

Odds are that there will be not be that much more significant movement until the end of June -- if the remaining undecided supers have not moved until now, why would they do so before the last voters cast their ballot? -- but things could go very fast then. The Obama campaign is already looking to claim victory in Tuesday's primaries, as they are more than likely to clinch a majority of pledged delegate at the end of the night. According to my calculations and without counting any of the Edwards pledged delegates that have rallied Obama, he needs 24 of 103 delegates that will be awarded on Tuesday... Of course, we have known for months that Obama will win the pledged delegate count. But times are getting increasingly difficult for Hillary.

The week that just finished was particularly rough, as most observers and Democrats were clearly turning away from the primary and towards the general election. The day after Clinton's West Virginia triumph, NARAL and John Edwards endorsed Obama, both making sure to frame their endorsement in the perspective of the general election. Edwards praised Clinton at length and NARAL's main target was clearly John McCain. The superdelegate flow towards Obama confirmed that the primary period is closing, with many endorsements accompanied with pronouncements that Clinton can no longer win and that the endorsees' motivation is to heal the party's wounds.

Also this week, the political world's attention unmistakably turned to the general election because of the controversy surrounding George Bush's "appeasement" speech at the Knesset. The McCain and Obama campaigns got in a heated back-and-forth on the issue, as most Democrats rallied to Barack's defense and most Republicans hurried to support the president, in what amounted to the first partisan salvoes of the general election.

More generally, McCain is now trying to reclaim some attention. He was content to be forgotten from February to now, as he was rebuilding his campaign and organizing his outreach to conservatives, two activities that don't necessarily demand the attention of the mainstream media. But now that McCain wants to work himself back in the country's attention span, the general election is coming to dominate conversations... and Hillary Clinton's hopes to take this to the convention are diminishing daily.

Of course, none of this is that important; we have known for a long time, after all, that Obama is the likely Democratic nominee. But we have also known that how he ends up clinching the nod and when he manages to put Clinton away will have a major influence on how he fares in November, so these consideration are significant.

This is why Obama's strong showing in North Carolina and Indiana was significant. It was not enough to force Clinton to drop out and for Obama to fully turn to the general election, but it was enough for him to turn away from primary campaigning and concentrate on his exchanges with John McCain and on swing states that will matter in the general. Obama received the Edwards endorsement in Michigan, not Oregon or Kentucky (though Edwards could help among Kentucky's blue collar voters). And on Election Night this Tuesday, Obama will not be in Oregon; nor will he be in Puerto Rico. He will be Iowa, with the hope that a triumphant rally in the site of his first victory and of a key fall battleground will be enough to turn the page of his battle with Clinton. One that will have been longer, more challenging and probably more entertaining than his coming showdown with McCain.



  • This year is full of surprises, but the polling numbers in IN, ND and AK are among the biggest surprises of the year.


    By Blogger Mark, At 19 May, 2008 02:52  

  • It really does seem like the NC and IN primaries were decisive. Obama did basically what he had to do, win NC very well and keep IN very close (which 1% is).

    He should ignore Puerto Rico because it should have no legitimate role in the primaries. Hillary will no doubt try and use the popular vote she gains therer to somehow calculate she has more votes. How many EV's does Puerto Rico have in the GE??? Zero would be the answer. It is not a state and should not play a decisive role.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 19 May, 2008 08:07  

  • I heard 80,000 people in Oregon came out to an Obama rally - what the hell. Has any other candidate ever got that many people to come out?? An Oregon isn`t a huge state.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 19 May, 2008 08:08  

  • Multiple sources say that Obama will not claim victory, he will just say he has the majority of the pledged delegates.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 May, 2008 10:34  

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