The end game: Primary season ends tomorrow

For those who have moved on from the Democratic primary, it's easy to forget that tomorrow is the last primary day as South Dakota and Montana go to the polls. The Obama campaign is working overtime to convince superdelegates to rally around him in the coming days for the Illinois Senator to reach the magic number of 2,118 and claim the nomination.

Before we get there, however, we have to get through two more primaries and new polls today suggest that those might not be as much of formalities as we expected. Obama is heavily favored to win both South Dakota and Montana but two new ARG polls tell a different story:

  • In Montana, a state with 16 delegates, Obama is barely ahead 48% to 44%. The two are tied among registered Democrats and Obama gets his advantage from independents.
  • In South Dakota, a state with 15 delegates, ARG finds Clinton trouncing Obama 60% to 34%.
Whatever tomorrow's results, it is unlikely they will have a big impact on the nomination and even on what superdelegates think. The two states combined offer 31 delegates and the popular vote should not switch dramatically because of tomorrow's result as there should not be that many voters. However, even a single victory would allow Clinton to score a very rare upset. When is the last time a candidate benefited from a surprising victory? We have to go back to February, when few people were expecting that big a margin for Obama in Maine and Wisconsin and his victories in Delaware and Connecticut on February 5th were surprising. Overall, it is telling of how significant a lead Obama built in February that Clinton's 30%+ wins in WV, KY and Puerto Rico coupled with a suggestion of a coming upset could look so irrelevant to the nomination quest.

Should Clinton have a good night tomorrow, it could also impact her thinking process about whether she ought to withdraw from the race. Her campaign has sent conflicting signs in the past few days. First, Clinton has stated that she had not lost hope of convincing superdelegates that have already declared for Obama to change their mind as they are not pledged to any candidate even after they declared; Terry McAuliffe suggested that he was "hearing things." This is an essential argument if Clinton wants to justify her staying in the race past once Obama passes 2,118. Second, the campaign has kept the door open to contesting the legitimacy of the Michigan seating and the RBC's decision which they are suggesting they might take all the way to the convention.

On the other hand, there have been insistent suggestions that Clinton is looking to suspend her campaign this week, perhaps even endorsing Obama as early as this Friday. The Obama campaign is already in discussion with Clinton staffers about integrating them to his team, and Ben Smith suggests that Clinton's announcement could occur as early as tomorrow. Indeed, he notes that Clinton is organizing her election night party in New York City in a larger-than-expected facility to which she has invited her top donors, which could signal something a bit more significant than expected. Also, Marc Ambinder reports that Clinton staffers are being told to return their receipts by the end of this week, another sign that the campaign is preparing for the end.

If the superdelegate tsunami that will start once the primary season is over is as huge as Obama is hoping for, it would make it impossible for Hillary to remain in the race. There is only so many declared superdelegates she can hope to switch and a more satisfactory seating of the Michigan delegation would only net her so many additional votes. CNN reports that most of the 17 remaining uncommitted Senators will endorse Obama this week, after the end of voting, though Harry Reid should not do so. Note that Clinton won the support of two supers today (one from Louisiana and one from New York) while Obama was endorsed by four who count as three (as there are two from Michigan, apart from one from CT and one from VA).

In retrospect, the Democratic primaries have been very predictable, with most of the results since early February determined by demographic factors more than anything else. But Clinton's intentions have always been much harder to understand and even harder to predict, making it that much more difficult to foresee what will happen in the coming days. But there is no question that most people in the Democratic universe are now looking to put a close to the primary and they will do everything they can to bring an end to the Clinton-Obama storyline starting tomorrow night. If Florida and Michigan were holding re-votes tomorrow as once seemed very possible, June 3rd would be a much more climactic day and one in which Clinton would actually have a plausible path to save herself. But now even an unexpected Clinton triumph tomorrow should not change the race's closing dynamic.

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  • Those polls seem fishy, but such results could be chaotic for the Obama campaign, not in terms of delegates, but it would show that Hillary's popular vote plan resonates with voters and many of them believe an Obama nomination would be illegitimate. Also, it would reinforce his weakness with working class whites.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 02 June, 2008 14:47  

  • The poll results could have a lot to do with Obama's focusing on the general and not engaging Clinton

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 02 June, 2008 14:52  

  • fishy or not, but it will be great. I hipe that white people in Montana and South Dacota finally come to their senses nad support for Hillary. Why??? because She is teh onlu ONE who cant turn economy arount wit men like Bill, and both states will get their fair share. Bill keep His promises, and Hillary will do even more. Black People supporting Hillary only by 10 %, those people are true democrats and not for sale!!! Those 90% will never support white candidates, because they are racist toward white and people of color, they telling latinos, thet they are on their said, but we all know, that most of latino voters trust white people, and they are right. If we can just solv e illegel immigratio, Lationo will never aupport black people. Hillary is a true unifier, not OBAMA, and He will never WILL BE!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 02 June, 2008 15:25  

  • Not that its going to matter tomorrow, but Hillary is the true uniter for the Republicans.

    BTW ... the talk is Obama has enough Supers lined up for tomorrow to declare victory in St. Paul! check out The Page.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 02 June, 2008 15:48  

  • ARG has been all over the place for most of the primary cycle, so I would take most of these with a grain of salt.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 02 June, 2008 15:49  

  • I wish that there were more polls of these two states. Both of the Arg polls go aganist the convential wisdom. I would have thought that if Clinton was to have an upset, it would be in Montana becasue in South Dakota Obama basically has the establishment Support. On other hand, while Obama has been campaigning in Montana and South Dakota, it isn't with the fervour that Clinton has.

    I'm going to say that if Clinton really destroys Obama in South Dakota like ARG says, it would be a massive embarsessment for him in a state that he was favored to win and Clinton would have little incentive to drop out of the race even if he reaches the 2118 threshold. She would undoublty try to convince undeclared and declared Obama SD to go to her for a couple of weeks. A narrow loss to Obama would be good for Clinton as well, althrough not as much as if she suprisngly beat Obama by almost 20 points like in ARG South Dakota's poll.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 02 June, 2008 16:19  

  • anon of 15:25 - you sound pretty ill educated and your typing proved it.
    Also Bill didn't keep all his promises - marriage vows spring to mind. As does enacting any health care reforms of note.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 02 June, 2008 18:21  

  • I don't foresee Clinton dropping out any time soon. Her plan is to wait out this thing until every Democrat in the country can see he can't win the general. If he proves her wrong, she'll fall in behind him after the convention. Suspending a campaign is not the same as dropping out of the running. Suspense sells in this media and keeping the door open to a reversal of fortunes just kills all McSame's thunder. This race is not as adversarial as most believe. Tom-"ill educated" sounds pretty poorly educated itself. I think that poster is just lazy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 02 June, 2008 18:42  

  • I know that if I was in Hillary's shoes I would fight for the nomination until it was proven without a shadow of doubt that the nomination would not be mine. That "shadow of doubt" will probably occur within the next 2 weeks. I think that the uncommitted superdelegates will team together and push Obama over the top.

    I really do like Hillary (I voted for her)--she's gone thru hell being married to Bill Clinton. She's a smart person, and she's tough. However, at this point, if I was a superdelegate, I'd now change over to Obama.

    By Anonymous Jim W, At 02 June, 2008 19:22  

  • What will the media have to talk about after Friday? I feel so sorry for the pundits. There will be a big surprise in store for everyone Tuesday evening when HRC endorses Obama, and suspends her campaign. She's got tons of campaign debt, and the big guns are coming out for Obama on Thursday. She knows it, so she needs to get out in front of them, otherwise she will be run over.

    By Blogger Daniel Greenfield, At 02 June, 2008 21:25  

  • By Blogger dong dong23, At 21 April, 2016 22:22  

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