Superdelegates flow towards Obama, give him his first lead

Whatever path might remain for a Clinton nomination gets that much narrower with every superdelegate that endorses Obama -- and the Illinois Senator got the support of 8 of them today alone, making this one of his most successful days super-wise and allowing him to grab the lead among superdelegates for the first time. This is obviously an important development

Clinton's rationale has long been that there is no reason for her to drop out as long as superdelegates are reluctant to endorse Obama; every few weeks there is heavy speculation that Obama is about to get a wave of new support but those rumors have never materialized. Since his Indiana and North Carolina, however, there has been an unmistakable pick-up in the pace of endorsements; today, there was a flow:

  • Among the day's most important endorsements was that of Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey who switched his support from Clinton to Obama. The reason this is significant is that Payne is the African-American superdelegate to switch his support since John Lewis did a few months ago. We wondered whether Lewis' move would lead to an erosion of Clinton's support among black superdelegates but that never materialized. Payne insisted on the need for party unity.
  • In particular, all eyes are on Rep. Clyburn, one of the highest ranking House Democrats who is still officially undeclared but who has been very critical of Clinton for a while; his praise of Obama today only confirms that the Illinois Senator can count on Clyburn's endorsement, sooner or later.
  • Obama got two other congressional endorsements today: Rep. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon.
  • One representative rallied behind Clinton, Rep. Chris Carney of Pennsylvania; Carney represents a very tough district for Democrats.
  • Obama's other endorsements are: South Carolina state party vice chair Wilber Lee Jeffcoat, Maryland DNC member John Gage, California DNC member Ed Espinoza (who became famous for anonymously running the site Mr. Super), an other California DNC member Vernon Watkins (who declared "The election is over, everybody knows that. Obama has won.") and New Mexico add-on Laurie Weahkee, who was selected under somewhat controversial conditions a few weeks ago when she insisted she was undecided but Clinton supporters within the state party protested that she had privately committed to Obama.
With Obama now in front in the superdelegate count, it the support of the establishment that switches from one candidate to the other; this, of course, is only a symbolic shift but it has enormous significance. Clinton needs superdelegate to reverse the vote of pledged delegates and for that to happen she needs to close with a lead of at least 150 superdelegates. But she has firmly behind and there is no sign that she in a position to get her lead back; after all, many of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates are not likely to be truly undecided (Nancy Pelosi, Clyburn, Donna Brazile).

The flow of superdelegates towards Obama strikes two terrible blows to Hillary Clinton. First it undermines her rationale to stay in the race at a time the media is increasingly unwilling to entertain the notion of a suspenseful race (see the Washington Post's Dan Balz). Second it removes the last metric in which she was still ahead. It also means that many superdelegates are no longer willing to be patient and are looking to put an end to the race even more quickly than Howard Dean and Senator were asking them to.

Today's ray of hope for Hillary Clinton pales in comparison to this deluge of bad news. RCP does calculations and concludes that Clinton could still regain the lead among the popular vote under certain models of calculations. This is something she was counting on to give superdelegates who wanted to endorse her some cover but even this scenario had seemed unlikely after Obama's large victory in North Carolina and many had concluded that the popular vote contest -- like the pledged delegate race -- was over. Yet, RCP notes that if turnout in Kentucky and West Virginia is high and Clinton gets 40%+ blowouts as polls are predicting, it could put her in a position to claim at least this metric with a large victory in Puerto Rico. This might seem unimportant, but Clinton truly needs something to justify her continuing candidacy if she is serious about staying in the race until June 3rd (and even beyond).



  • Clinton's chances are almost noexistant now in terms of gaining the nomination, but if she wanted to she can cause Obama to lose the GE. It's very possible she will contiune to use Obama's weakness among her supporters as rational to go on, especially if she gets massive victories in WV and KY and wins PR by a solid margin: the remaining Obama states are smaller (only Oregan is of comparable size, South Dakota and Montana are only a little more than half the size of Oregan), and lets not forget the seating of Florida and Michigan, seating both would narrow Obama's lead and make it the race seem more like a tie than a Obama lead.

    As I said in comment section of the post below, Obama is foolish to declare vicotry on May 20th as Clinton win in Kentucky will double his win in Oregan and upset Clinton's supporters, unfairly or not. A unity bounce will not happen until Clinton stops her campaign and endorses Obama: even if most of the other SDs all go for Obama, Clinton alone can convince her suppporters to back Obama as the democratic nominee

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 09 May, 2008 18:10  

  • It is true Clinton could get the lead in the popular vote under some situations but the popular vote is not an official metric. The aim of the campaigns were to win delegates not maximise PV. Secondly Puerto Rico is a territory and does not vote in the GE therefore its vote is irrelevant. Clinton's campaign had previously dissed small red states (umm much like the all so suddenly important WV and KT) but at least those states get EV's in the GE.

    Oregon is about the last important state because it actually votes Democratic in GE's and is a swing state. Obama is likely to win this has he has done other truly swing states like WI, WA, MO, IA and VA.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 09 May, 2008 18:35  

  • Clinton can't persuade her supporters to back Obama. Her supporters are pushing her, not following. The basis of her continued campaign is the rejection of what so many think are bad values from the Obama camp. If she were to pull out now before forcing Obama to clean up his act, Obama would certainly face a much tougher road ahead. She's a point person for a cause now and if she loses that battle, Barack loses. Barack can step up to the plate and prove he represents all Democrats and all Americans and Hillary's obligation will be ended. Until he "gets it" he will suffer through this vetting process until he does. He's fueling her mission.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 09 May, 2008 18:53  

  • Anonymous 18:53, what precisely is Obama's 'act' that he needs to 'clean up'? What is it that he needs to 'get'? Like a lot of pro-Clinton talk, this is all summary statements with nothing to get our teeth into besides the fact that he had the temerity to challenge her.

    By Anonymous zoot, At 09 May, 2008 23:11  

  • Hehe, yea, I have no idea what he is talking about either.

    If anyone "Doesn't get it" its HC, not Obama.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 May, 2008 01:02  

  • I wish this anon would put down some name or at least a alias like I'm using (I use Jaxx Raxor as my alias for every online interaction, including video and computer games!) Then it would be easier to indentify him/her.

    I do think that anon has some of a point. I do think that in a way her supporters are pushing her in that if Clinton was to drop out now, they would feel that she was being forced out (by primarly male SDs) but I disagree that they would ignore undefintely if (when?) she drops out and endorses Obama. The feel of being cheated is not likely to be strong as Clinton is behind fair and sqaure in PDs, likely the popular vote and now probably the SD vote. However, if Clinton wants to stoke tensions she can. As I have said consistenly in many of my most recent comments, it would be absolutely foolish for Obama to declare victory on May 20th despite the nominatn being pratically in his grasp. He should wait until all the primaries are settled and MI and FL are settled in order to minimize the damage. Obama can probably losing white working class men (as long as it's probably 50-50 or better) but he will lose the election if he doesn't get the support of white women and hispanics.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 10 May, 2008 02:15  

  • So, the SD avalanche is slowly beginning...

    By Blogger Mark, At 10 May, 2008 03:36  

  • NC and IN were game changers in that Clinton's approximate 25 SD lead at the start of May has been completely eliminated. As of yesterday Obama had the same number of SD's. Remember Clinton started the year with at least a 100 SD lead due to name recognition, being appointed by her husband etc.

    I do not know what cause Hillary represents. Obama and Clinton policies are very similar so for practical purposes it does not matter who is the nominee.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 10 May, 2008 07:58  

  • Sorry Jaxx, can't give out clues. Too many angry people. Obama "act" is the disenfranchisement of 9% of the Democratic party. The rules are rules mantra defies the rule of due process. If Obama wants a unified party behind him, he can't continue this path. He did a terrible thing by pulling his name in Mi. and he hasn't even called to apologize to the supers there. (Mrs. Dingell expressed that sentiment on CNN's Larry King.) He needs to make amends. I realize that you Obama supporters don't see it that way but your votes are already in the bag. To earn the votes of the people that support Hillary, all he has to do is what she wants. She's speaking for people like me. I won't let a president like Bush who only serves his own win. Disenfranchisement is not representing everyone. He needs to correct this wrong at his own expense before it costs our party the WH.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 May, 2008 08:10  

  • Anon 8:10, Don't assume that Clinton will have Obama supporters in the bag if she somehow wins the nominatin. Yeah you are right that at this point, more Obama supporters would vote for Clinton rather than the other way around, but If Clinton is percieved as stealing the election by overturning Obama's PD lead, young people and African Americans will be POed. I will personally vote for Clinton if she is the nominee, but many others will likely not. Clinton, nor any otheor democrat, can win without African American support and she will forfeit that support if SDs overturn the outcome. Also if the democrats lose the white house in 2008 and Clinton runs again in 2012, I won't ever support her in the primary and I would even abstain voting for her in the general. That howerver is a way to go and I need to see how this process goes foward.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 10 May, 2008 10:11  

  • The rules are rules mantra defies the rule of due process.

    Rules ARE due process. Everyone knew the process. Had that process been followed, there would have been no problems. If Michigan had votes early in the general election, there wouldn't be any controversy about not counting the votes at all.

    He did a terrible thing by pulling his name in Mi.

    He and all the other major candidates did so at the request of the party. It's not like they just decided on their own that it was a good idea.

    There's little doubt that a Michigan delegation will be seated. But whether it will be in accordance with a vote that was so obviously flawed (regardless of the cause) remains to be seen.

    Last polls I saw have Obama doing better than Clinton against McCain in Michigan. Rassmussen on March 31 had Obama down 42-43 and Clinton down 45-42. The Lansing-based EPIC-MRA on April 14 had Obama up 43-41 and Clinton down 37-46. So after the primary is over, a solution to the Michigan issue is worked out, and tempers die down, I don't think there will be a problem in November.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 10 May, 2008 11:12  

  • I wouldn't put ANY meaning to any poll now.

    For 2 reasons.

    1. It took the pollsters almost 40 races on the demo side to get their models even close. Even so, in NC and ID they were off pretty badly.

    On average, they missed both by about 7 points. Which is larger than the margin will be in Nov.

    Pollsters models are all set up for 2 white guys bashing each other over policy. They have no Idea how to poll for "Identity Politics" yet. And they sure as hell wont get it right before Nov. It will take years.

    2. Both Demo. canidates are still in it. There is a HUGE split there. And no one really knows how the HC voters are going to react once she drops, or is forced out. I have a pretty good idea, but no one knows for sure.

    IMHO, in the end, Ed Rendell (Demo. PA Gov.) is right. No way a Black man wins PA, no chance, I live here. And you can add in OH, and FL for the exact same reason.

    That makes Bo path to winning very tough, to say the least.

    Deep down, thats what all this "He cant win the White vote" is all about. He must do better with the white vote to win in Nov. And it isn't going to happen.

    By Anonymous Xdust, At 10 May, 2008 14:29  

  • In depth statistical analysis of whether Clinton can take the lead in the PV here at my blog.

    Answer: depends on how you define the PV.

    By Blogger Mark, At 10 May, 2008 16:26  

  • in NC and ID they were off pretty badly.

    On average, they missed both by about 7 points.

    "Pretty badly" is true only if (1) one looks only at the spread between the candidates and not consider the undecideds about which the polls make no assumptions and (2) one does not consider the margins of error, which are typically +/- 4%. Three out of five polls listed at realclearpolitics.com had the Indiana spread within their margins of error, even not considering undecideds, and one was barely outside. So I'd say that's not missing "pretty badly." They did miss by more significant margins in North Carolina, but again that's not taking undecideds into account (for what it's worth).

    (Also, the polls themselves state that they'll capture the value in the population within their margins of error 95% of the time, and outliers can throw the average off.)

    He must do better with the white vote to win in Nov. And it isn't going to happen.

    Yes, there are some whites who will not vote for Obama. But there are plenty who may have voted for Clinton in the primaries who will still vote for a Democrat in the fall (think the Philly 'burbs). Whatever deficits he has could be made up with his appeal to moderates and crossover Republicans.

    Polls should be understood with all the caveats that they themselves explicitly bring to their numbers (and some that they do not). But even so, the head-to-head Obama-McCain polls in PA are all over the place, and it's not unreasonable they'll improve for Obama once this intraparty feud ends and Clinton supporters start thinking about what's at stake in November.

    But we'll see.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 10 May, 2008 18:47  

  • xdust--

    The "whites won't vote for him" argument doesn't hold a lot of water. Maybe that's true for your neighborhood, but a recent Gallup analysis showed Obama doing *at least* as well among whites in the GE as Kerry did in 2004.

    The reason? While Obama doesn't do as well in PA, OH, FL, etc, he does markedly better West of the Mississippi. The Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and the northern Midwest are all much bluer for Obama than for Gore, Kerry, or Clinton.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 10 May, 2008 22:57  

  • The Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and the northern Midwest are all much bluer for Obama than for Gore, Kerry, or Clinton.

    True for the most part (though Kerry won the northern Midwest--MI, WI, and IL--and the Pacific Northwest states of WA and OR). But the states Obama would bring into play are not as populous as PA, and it would take several of them to make up for PA's 21 electoral votes. NM, (5), CO (9), and IA (7) would compensate, but he'd have to hold all the Kerry states and add even more than those three to win the GE.

    It's possible without PA, but it would be a lot easier if Obama holds PA.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 10 May, 2008 23:12  

  • dsimon--

    It would certainly be easier, but he's still doing well in GE match-ups against McCain there. In any case, his match-ups right now are as good as Clinton's--she may have PA, but she's losing Michigan, Wisconsin, and others.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 11 May, 2008 03:51  

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