Increasing speculation about Clinton's intentions

On Wednesday morning, as the political world was abuzz with speculation that she was about to drop out of the race, Hillary Clinton got up, traveled to West Virginia and launched into her stump speech, pledging to stay in "until there's a nominee."

24 hours later, Clinton is showing no signs of slowing down despite suggestions that she is only trying to stall for time before deciding what to do, just as Mitt Romney did after Super Tuesday. Thus, speculation has only increased over the past day. Is Clinton pulling a Romney, or is she putting herself in the position Mike Huckabee was in between February 5th and March 4th, or does she actually believe she still has a chance at the nomination?

The Huckabee option is the most plausible. Clinton is professing her commitment to getting every state a chance to vote and she sees no reason to drop out before June 3rd, especially since West Virginia and Kentucky will be such good results for her. As I suggested yesterday, it might actually be good for Obama to have her in the race until May 20th to avoid losing those states to someone who is no longer running. Now, some in the Clinton campaign are circulating the date of June 15th as the end of primary season. It is indeed likely that as soon as all states vote a significant number of superdelegates would feel forced to pick sides, leading to Obama reaching the majority of delegates. (Update: Terry McAuliffe, Clintonite extraordinaire, is saying that the race will be over by early June and will not go to the convention floor.)

But for now, superdelegates are not moving. Obama picked up four yesterday, including one who switched from Clinton to Obama, but Clinton also obtained two new superdelegate votes (so a net gain of one). Obviously, Clinton is the one who needs a 4:1 split so such news is great for Obama, but the Clinton campaign must be amazed that such a high number of superdelegates are still refusing to declare themselves when they could force an end to the race by rallying Obama's side. More specifically, the stability of Clinton's endorsements is nothing short of remarkable as constant speculation of wavering Clinton superdelegates -- in particular African-Americans -- very rarely leads to any actual switches. Ben Smith reports that Barack Obama's visit to the House floor this morning is leading to more talks of wavering superdelegates as Clinton superdelegates hugged the Senator and asked him for an autograph. But as long as superdelegates are not moving the Clinton campaign feels that there is no reason for them to call it quits either.

The second major factor is Michigan and Florida. Clinton has proclaimed herself the defender of these states' voting rights and it is likely that she will refuse to quit the race until an arrangement is found concerning both. This could also be to Obama's advantage. The Illinois Senator does not want to open himself up to fall attacks by Republicans that he was nominated on the back of those two crucial swing states; he might not need to win Florida (though it would hurt Democrats if McCain doesn't even have to defend the state, moving resources elsewhere) but Michigan is definitely a must. If the delegations are seated after Clinton drops out, that would not give a voice to Michigan and Florida at all. [By the way, think how different our conversations would be today if Michigan and Florida were revoting on June 3rd as it once seemed likely.]

Given how far in front of Clinton Obama now is in terms of superdelegates, he is now in a position to accept an arrangement in Florida and Michigan (provided the DNC is on board, of course). Thus, the Michigan Democratic Party is proposing yet another plan to split delegates: Seat the full delegation, allocate 69 delegates to Clinton and 59 for Obama. This margin is midway between a tie and the allocation based on the January 15th vote (a night that also saw the survival of Mitt Romney, as some of you might remember), pretending that Obama is "uncommitted." (Though some uncommitted voters might have been Edwards or Biden who could have moved to Clinton, this is clearly the only way of dealing with "uncommitted.")

This plan had already circulated a few weeks ago but had gotten nowhere. Now that the Clinton campaign is ready to accept less and that Obama can afford accepting more, perhaps the plan will be adopted, resolving the Michigan mess. Note that, while I have not seen this specified anywhere, such a plan would surely restore the right to vote of Michigan superdelegates, raising the bar of a convention majority a bit higher and increasing the pool of superdelegates -- two things that could prolong Clinton's staying in the race further if she is looking to stay in until Obama reaches a majority.

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  • If Hillary Clinton is really looking toward a graceful exit, remaks like these she made yesterday won't help:

    "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

    "There's a pattern emerging here," she said

    Now I'm sure she didn't mean to say or imply that nonwhites are not 'hard-working Americans', but this simply came out wrong--even wronger than her Martin Luther King-LBJ comments before South Carolina.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 12:08  

  • It was probably poorly worded, but Clinton is right insofar as the Democratic primary is concerned. Most of Clinton's voters will vote for Obama if he is the nominee because Obama is still closer to Clinton in terms of positons as John McCain. The question is by how much: if its only a little over a half as many polls show, Obama is in serious trouble. But we have to see when the nomination settles down.

    On Taniel's post, I would say that speculation that Clinton would even pull a Mike Huckabee is way too soon, and I think the primary reason isn't the fact that she's expected to win WV and KY easiliy but of the expectation that FL and MI will be seated, therefore narrowing the delegate divide between herself and Obama and makeing it more paptable for SDs to oveturn Obama's lead. In addition, much more SDs from Florida and Michigan have endorsed Clinton rather than Obama and I'm sure that many of the undeclared SDs in this state would be privy to voting for Clinotn if they have their votes restored. Clinton may be on life support, but there is still the chance of a miraculous recovery, even if its miniscule. I think that Obama would be foolish to declare victory in the Democratic Primarys if he just gets the majority of PD, as that would just antagonized the Clinton voters he will need in the fall. Instead he should wait until he gets majority of all of the Delegates, at least until after May 31st when the first decision on whetever and how to seat the delegates from FL and MI.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 08 May, 2008 12:30  

  • Not sure your read of the Super Ds is correct, that they're holding back because they're indecisive about who to support, which is how I read it. First, they're all still sensitive to charges of bullying and 'ganging up', so they're holding back long enough to let this play out itself. If she starts to rough-house again, that will change.

    Equally to the point, I think Obama has directed that those Super Ds who are ready to move hold back. He wants to let her get out on her own terms, so long as they're not damaging to the party's chances in the General (for instance, what sjberke quotes isn't helpful). If he embarrasses her, or is perceived to, it will only make things tougher when he tries to reconcile her supporters. (And please, no barrage of posts threatening to bolt to McCain if he's the nominee - I'll worry about that if you're singing the same song in late October.)

    By Anonymous zoot, At 08 May, 2008 12:37  

  • It's under half, Ind 49%, NC 46%. Barack would do well to agree to any settlement with Fl and Mi as he needs them in the fall if he wins. Edwards could lay claim still to his share of the uncommitted so those numbers could be halved. Everey day that passes is a day less whites will vote for Barack. It's a steady drain now for weeks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 12:37  

  • So now Barack has directed his superdelegates to hold back? Ha ha ha ha! Nice try there. Those floods of supers that never materialized really lends creedence to that claim. Never cry wolf.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 13:00  

  • #1 Considering that I, like most bloggers, most people in the media and most posters on this website, have been focused on the electability question of whether Obama can win blue-collar white voters in the general election I would find it hypocritical to go after Clinton's quote.

    #2, Zoot: I am not suggesting that superdelegates are all undecided, and I agree that many are probably privately leaning for Obama. But we cannot pretend that they have declared themselves. They haven't, and considering how late we are and how favored Obama is, that does mean something.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 08 May, 2008 13:09  

  • It does seem odd to me that there have not been more big name SDs coming out for Obama after the April 6 primaries. In particular, I'm surprised that Edwards has not endorsed Obama at this stage, considering that his state went so heavily for him. Certainly every day that passes without some big names coming forward makes these SDs seem so much less enthusiastic for an Obama nomination.

    By Blogger Daniel Greenfield, At 08 May, 2008 13:21  

  • Daniel Greenfield,
    If anything recent stories have only confirmed that Elizabeth Edwards is clearly leaning Clinton.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 08 May, 2008 13:36  

  • anonymous--

    Under half in two states is not under half nationally. And Obama doesn't have a white problem so much as an Appalachia problem--he's dominated contests in lily-white Western states. This "every day that passes is a day less whites will vote for Barack" drivel is nonsense. Obama got 37% of the white vote in NC and 40% in Indiana--almost exactly the same as his 37% in Pennsylvania, and better than his 34% in Ohio.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 08 May, 2008 14:24  

  • 37%,34%,40% are all under 50%. A month ago his support among Clinton supporters dropped to 50% nationally. We'll see soon how far he's fallen when some pollsters with testicular fortitude start polling on race. I've yet to see any polling data that shows he's gaining any support. Taniel and Daniel have hit upon a crucial point,why aren't the superdelegates and Edwards' flocking to Obama. That pesky EV map is just too risky to gamble on. If Obama could just pull out a victory in WV. or Ky. they might feel more confident.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 14:48  

  • To make things clear,

    I did not suggest that all superdelegates are not flocking to Obama because they are convinced he has a problem winning white voters. My sense is that many of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates simply want to stay out of the race, mostly because they come from tough districts in which endorsing any Democratic nominee can be trouble (see MS-01 and LA-06) and they are desperately hoping the race is settled before they have to declare themselves. My point was that it makes sense for Clinton to hang in there as long as these superdelegates are reluctant to declare themselves one way or the other.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 08 May, 2008 14:56  

  • Anonymous--

    Those *were* numbers based on race. He got 40% of the white vote in Indiana, which is better than his 37% in NC and 37% in PA, all of which are better than his 34% in Ohio. If anything he is *gaining* white support as he goes along, contrary to your dire predictions of white support for Obama dripping away. You were simply wrong.

    As for the less than 50% of Clinton supporters willing to support Obama in the general....

    1: They say that now, but it's impossible to say how many of them will feel that way in 6 months, once Clinton has conceded and thrown her support behind Obama.
    2: That is only in two states, it can't be logically extrapolated to the nation as a whole.
    3: That is based purely on primary voters, not the general electorate.
    4: That compares to only mid-fifties to low-seventies support for Clinton from Obama supporters, which is hardly better given that Obama has, y'know, a larger support base.
    5: That figure also include an unknown number of Republicans who voted for Hillary in the primary, but would vote for McCain in the election.

    So, forgive me if I don't take "under 50%" as gospel. General election matchups still show Obama generally ahead of McCain, and the conventional wisdom right now is that when Clinton drops out Obama will recieve a "unity bounce". I'm not worried.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 08 May, 2008 15:08  

  • Stephen-A larger support base? Just in primary voters so far that equates to three million more votes for Clinton. And that's giving all the uncommitted to Obama. It's a real problem that isn't going away. Hillary can throw all her support behind Obama but that's not going to solve that problem. Her support is growing from anti-Obamans not from pro-Clintons. More republicans have voted for Barack remember.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 15:19  

  • Most matchups before NC and IN showed Clinton doing better in GE polls and being better in terms of getting the EV vote. I don't know what it is right now, but I'm sure that as more polls come later I'm sure Obama will strenghen back up a bit.

    Stephen I think you are right that Obama has a appalachan problem, as he is not as weak among whites in the west as he is in the east. If Obama can be do well among western whites then he can make up for his weaknesses among eastern whites, especially if Clinton supporters come back to him in largely numbers than as expressed currently.

    Clinton definitly still has a small chance of winning the nomination, but it would now be impossible for her to go on and win the GE because Obama's supporters (blacks, educated whites, young) who are ok with her now would be very embitterd, probably more than what Clinton supporters think of Obama right now.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 08 May, 2008 15:28  

  • Blacks might be racistly "embitterd", but educated whites will definitely vote for the issues. Clinton is far better positioned to win the GE than Obama. The polling still shows today that Clinton is far stronger against McSame than Obama. Nine days in a row.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 15:34  

  • 1: Clinton has nothing even *resembling* three million more primary votes than Obama. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/democratic_vote_count.html
    Even by the most generous measure, where we count MI and FL, give Obama *zero* votes for MI, *and* fail to count caucus states that didn't give vote totals (which favored Obama), Clinton is behind in terms of votes cast by nearly a hundred thousand.

    2: There is no evidence--*zero* evidence--that the anti-Obama sentiment in the democratic party is stronger than the anti-Clinton sentiment. In fact, on a national level, the reverse is clearly true, as Obama posts consistently higher approval ratings than Clinton.

    3: Yes, more Republicans have voted for Barack--but that's with Rush Limbaugh telling Republicans to go out and vote for Clinton. Both Obama and Clinton are capable of getting genuine Republican votes in November, though Obama rather more than Clinton, according to polls.

    4: Speaking of polls, there is *no* evidence that Obama is going to have a problem with white voters in the fall. In a recent Gallup poll, the difference between Obama and McCain's support among white voters in a match-up was actually marginally *less* than the difference between Kerry and Bush's support among white voters in 2004. The same is true for Hispanics, by the way, while Obama does a bit better among blacks.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 08 May, 2008 15:36  

  • Anonymous--

    "Far stronger" is an exaggeration--Rasmussen has Obama up 2, Clinton up 5.

    Also, "educated whites" may vote the issues, except for the fact that so many of them are young first-time voters who turned out in the primaries less for the party than for Obama himself. Jaxx is right--even if Clinton manages to convince the SDs to back her (now virtually impossible, as her "buyers' remorse" and "popular vote" arguments flopped on Tuesday) she'll be perceived as having stolen the nomination from the people's choice. It doesn't mean she'd be toast against McCain, but it won't be good for party unity, turning out the base, or trying to tap into the huge Obama fund-raising machine.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 08 May, 2008 15:42  

  • jaxx--

    I think Obama's biggest Appalachian problem is, obviously, PA, but he's actually polling well against McCain there right now. If he loses West Virginia, he could more than make up for it with strength in the Pacific Northwest, where Clinton is actually trailing McCain slightly right now. And while he may also lose Ohio, his greater strength in Michigan, Wisconsin, and other areas in the northern Midwest (i.e., his home turf) give him a real advantage. And, of course, he's big in the West--Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico are all wins for him right now, but maybe not for Clinton.

    The point, of course, is that both right now are in for very tough, close battles against McCain, and the real difference is that Obama reaches that result with a different set of strengths than the traditional Democratic candidate of recent years.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 08 May, 2008 15:54  

  • Obama will lose NJ,Oh,In,Fl,Mi,and Ca to name a few. Co and NM aren't really a worthwhile tradeoff. Obama was trailing McCain just days ago. A new Wright video pops up and knocks ten points off instantly. Welcome to the McSame WH. Every time you people say it's over, a new roadblock pops up. I'm sure there will be one this week too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 16:41  

  • The idea that Obama will lose Ohio or California is ludicrous. There is no current polling to back that up. In fact, in the most recent polls Obama actually polls better than Clinton against McCain in both states.

    And the Wright issue is old news. There is no evidence it had any measurable effect on the primaries. In fact, the Obama campaign's predictions on the primaries, released just after Super Tuesday, has been almost dead on, within a couple of percent, on every contest since, and Poblano's calculations on the Indiana/North Carolina races, which went with demographic trends that ignored the Wright controversy, were also dead on. Obama has bounced back quickly in terms of both match-ups against McCain and his favorability ratings each time Wright's come up. In fact, more people claim that they are concerned about McCain's relationship with Bush than they are Obama's with Wright.

    Wright has come up twice now, and Obama's survived. And every time Republicans go back to that well, it'll just get more tired and seem more lame.

    Could it be a factor? Sure. But compared to the numerous old and new scandals the Republicans would dredge up against Clinton? I'm not that concerned.

    Please, stop just making up facts. Your claim that Clinton is ahead in the popular vote was false, your claim that Obama will lose CA or NJ is false, and your claim that Wright will ruin the election for Obama has no factual basis. This is truthiness, not fact.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 08 May, 2008 16:54  

  • anonymous - I think you have been holding up pretty well against jaxx and stephen, but if you argument really needs to be built on the assumption that Obama is going to face worse scandals than Clinton in the GE, then I think jaxx and stephen have just won the argument. There is no reason to think Clinton is not going to have worse scandals picked out by the Republicans when she is back in the spotlight as the democratic nominee. If anything, Hillary is a much more problematic candidate against McCain (who is trying to build up the image of being a maverick) with so many people now viewing her as a purely opportunistic panderer. And just as Stephen has pointed out, national polls have repeatedly shown over the past six months that Clinton's approval ratings are consistently lower than Obama's -- even during the heights of the Wright controversy.

    By Blogger Jason, At 08 May, 2008 17:00  

  • Stephen said,

    "This "every day that passes is a day less whites will vote for Barack" drivel is nonsense. Obama got 37% of the white vote in NC and 40% in Indiana--almost exactly the same as his 37% in Pennsylvania, and better than his 34% in Ohio."

    This is absolutely truth, but you have to consider that those numbers are limited to the Democratic primary universe. There is no guarantee that Barack will get that kind of support from white voters in the general election. The fact that AA, students, and upper middle class "white liberal" make a very large chunk of the Democratic primary electorate make these numbers suspect. They cannot be extrapolated to the general election without making all kind of adjustments. We will have to wait and see how the polls shape once Hillary is out of the picture and is only McCain vs Obama. Barack must reach beyond his constituency or he will lose in November.

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 08 May, 2008 17:03  

  • Jason- other than Bill screwing an intern the Clintons have come out squeaky clean after all these years. Obama is only just starting to be looked at. Those assertions of which states Obama will lose are CNN's. Obama cannot and will not win the GE in this mode. Denial isn't helping him.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 May, 2008 17:50  

  • Robert you are absolutly right: Obama needs to reach beyond his core constiuency in order for him to win. I think that most of Clintons's supporters are going to vote for Democrat in the fall rather than stay home or vote for McCain. This is espcially true of the Democratic white women who have been supporting Clinton. Do they really think that McCain really has their intrests in heart? I bet that more than 80% of white women now supporting Clinton will vote for Obama in General, maybe even more, to the 90% range.

    As for hispanics, I think most of them will go back to Obama. I know there is talk of the brown/black divide but to me it seems way overblown. Also the view that McCain can get hispanics because of his support of immigration reform has little legs. Yeah, in 2006 he supported the bill, and conservative whites in the GOP blasted McCain for amnesty, they even blasted Bush. And in 2007 he caved in to demands and refused to sign on to the bill of that year, and lets not forget that McCain was almost left for dead in the GOP primary due to immigration reform debate. Maybe if core conservative republicans throw out their border only message, then McCain can be in great shape with Hispanics. Otherwise, for every vote McCain gets with an Latino/Latina, he will lose one from a conservative white GOP one. If the GOP is willing to use immigration as wedge issue against Democrats, then there is little chance that McCain can get major portions of thier support. I suspect that Obama will get at least 75% of Clinton's Hispanic support, and probably up to 85%. Even higher if McCain caves in to the enforcement only policy that GOP conservatives hold.

    I do think that Obama has big problem with the blue-collar white men who support Hillary. These guys are defintely aligned with Democrats on economic issues but are likely more conservative on social issues and especially foreign policy issues. Wright will probably has damaged Obama's chance of getting this group, probably about 50% of blue collar white males supporting Clinton will vote McCain, but Obama can make this up with support from his core demographics, espcially young people 18-25. If they vote percentagewise as they have in the primaries they can make up for Obama's weaknesses among working class white men. However, Obama will need the support of White women and Hispanics if he wants to be elected president.

    Sorry for my super long post :P

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 08 May, 2008 18:46  

  • The "Obama can't win white blue collar voters" argument is yet another in the specious series from the Clinton campaign that extrapolates primary results to the general election. The problem is that one can't extrapolate primary results to the general election because the general election presents a completely different choice with a different opponent (and often with a far larger eligible voting population and a far higher turnout).

    Yes, Clinton is correct that white primary voters without a college degree tend to favor her over Obama to some extent. But that does not tell us whether they would also favor McCain over Obama (or whether they might prefer McCain over herself). Just because one prefers A to B does not mean one would prefer C to B (or A to C, for that matter).

    It's a variant on the same argument she raises when she says she wins the big states and battleground states that Democrats will need in November. But if her argument is that she's better against McCain than Obama in those states, then the place to start would be polling data of her and Obama against McCain in those states, not the primary results of her against Obama.

    Moreover, even if Obama were weaker than Clinton in attracting blue collar white voters against McCain (which may be true, though not shown by Clinton's argument), he must have some strengths to compensate since national polls have him doing about as well as she in head-to-head match-ups against McCain.

    This attempt to link primaries to the general election has been refuted over and over again, yet the Clinton campaign keeps on using it. Maybe they think if they just repeat it enough times, it will be true.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 08 May, 2008 19:40  

  • Folks this is over and Obama won. One thing he has, he must do is to reach out to Hillary. The continuous belittling and scolding of the woman is not productive at this time. With all due respect, one of the things that angers Hillary supporters to no end is the smug attitude of some of Obama supporters. This healing process that we all crave has to come from both sides. I detect the attitude that the woman lost and she must kowtow. Is not going to happen. Barack must reach to her in a respectful manner. It is just common sense. I started as a supporter of Hillary, and I still like and love the woman. I think she is a formidable person. Now Obama is the practical nominee and I feel that I must support him in earnest if we are to avoid a McCain presidency, that sends shivers down my spine!!! I know Hillary will be there supporting Obama, but if his camp don’t play this right, it might turn a lot of her supporters off, I think.

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 08 May, 2008 22:42  

  • With all due respect, one of the things that angers Hillary supporters to no end is the smug attitude of some of Obama supporters.

    First, I don't think Obama has "belittled" or "scolded" Clinton. Candidates should not be confused with some of their more passionate supporters. Obama, it seems to me, has been essentially respectful to her throughout the process--at least as respectful as she has been to him.

    Second, I did not mean for my comments to come across as smug. But I am tired of politicians putting forward arguments that seem to me purposely misleading. Michael Kinsley has said that the biggest problem in politics today is that we let politicians get away with intellectual dishonesty--the saying of things they can't really believe.

    When that happens, I think we should call them on it, no matter who is the source. Because only then will they be able to regain the trust of the public, trust that is vital for addressing the large issues that face us today.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 09 May, 2008 09:06  

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