The end game thread: Obama clinches nomination, Clinton wins SD and McCain delivers very weak speech

7:50am: Steve Pearce puts an end to the career of Heather Wilson by defeating her by a few thousands votes. After surviving countless challenges by Democrats in her district NM-01, many of them won when Democrats were sure of picking-up her seat (see 2006), Wilson fell to a more conservative Republican in a primary and sees her political career interrupted. The two candidates polled roughly the same against Udall for the general election (with perhaps a slight advantage to Pearce) but Democrats ought to be relieved that they won't have to face Wilson's formidable campaign skills. For a moderate to have kept it this close in a low-turnout primary dominated by conservatives once again speaks to her survival instincts. Meanwhile, in CA-04, the conservative wing of the GOP also defeated a more moderate candidate and gave the nomination to famous California conservative Tom McClintock, who is now slightly favored to beat Democrat Charlie Brown in a district that clearly leans Republican.

Senator Lautenberg survives his primary by a significant margin, and so does Rep. Boswell of Iowa, with about 60% of the vote. The New Jersey Senate race will now oppose Lautenberg to former Rep. Zimmer, who narrowly won his party's nod. In New Mexico, Steve Pearce is holding on to the tightest of leads against Heather Wilson -- but her district is underreporting compared to his and that could help her pull a come-from-behind victory (if Wilson becomes the nominee Democrats ought to be careful as she always seems able to snatch victory from the brink of defeat). In NM-01, it looks like Martin Heinrich will become the Democratic nominee, setting a hotly contested open seat race against Republican sheriff White.

Obama proclaims himself the Democratic nominee and delivers a tribute to Hillary Clinton and her service in an attempt to woo her supporters and avoid giving the impression of pressuring her. Speaking to a cheering crowd that has packed the St. Paul auditorium in which McCain will accept the nomination in early September, Obama then turned his sights to John McCain and outlined his differences with the Arizona Senator. Since I criticized McCain for talking about Obama too much in his own speech, I ought to say the same here but it's hard to deny that Obama's tone is much less negative (there are no snickers, for one) and Obama quickly moved on to talk about his own priorities and his own hopes -- moving to celebrate this day as the end of his primary campaign. Obama finished his speech to a screaming crowd. Rarely had the difference in Obama and his opponents' speech-making ability been so obvious, as McCain's speech was weak in a way Clinton's never were (compare the energy of Hillary's rally to McCain's).

10:05pm: Montana is called for Obama,
which allows prevents Clinton from scoring two upsets tonight (and which also gives Obama 5 new superdelegate endorsements, including the state's governor's and 2 senators). The exit polls suggest this is going to be a huge win for the Illinois Senator. We are now waiting for Obama's speech, the third and final one of the night.
In AL-02, Bobby Bright, the Montgomery Mayor who the GOP also tried to recruit (underscoring how conservative Bright is) will be the Democratic nominee's in this district that Bush won with 67% of the race. Meanwhile, in the New Mexico Senate primary, Heather Wilson is off to a strong start as she is leading Steve Pearce by 6% even though Pearce's district is the one that has reported the most and Wilson's has barely started reporting. In New Jersey, Lautenberg is continuing to crush Andrews by more than 30% with almost two thirds reporting.

After a very long speech in which she at times looked set to drop out and which she started with a long recognition of all Obama has accomplished but in which she also outlined her own case for the nomination (claiming the popular vote, outlining she won states that are necessary to get 270 electoral votes and that she is more electable), Clinton announced... she would make no decision today and consulting with party leaders. She also emphasized the issue of health care, in what is perhaps a signal that she will take that in negotiations with the Obama campaign (either to have him embrace elements of her plan or to appoint her as his point-person on health care issues). I think most people -- including me -- were expecting Clinton to announce she was dropping out considering how massive the day's superdelegate tsunami ended up being but she remained stunningly defiant. She said she would talk to party figures in the coming days but outlined no path to the nomination -- how does she think she can reverse the tide?!

9:25pm: South Dakota called for Hillary Clinton. With 19% reporting, she is ahead 57% to 43%. Is it not appropriate of what has happened ever since the beginning of March that Obama would win the nomination based on his delegates in a state in which Clinton unexpectedly won (in what is the first true upset since February). For much of the past three months, Clinton won important contests but she never did so by a margin large enough to change the race's fundamentals. By the time she started pulling in large leads (WV, KY and PR), it was too late. And by the time she won the first state that was expected to go for Obama, her rival already clinched the nomination. Overall, her last-minute win deprives Obama of closing strongly, something she has denied him for much of the past few months; Ben Smith notes this is particularly embarrassing for one of Obama's strongest backers, former Sen. Tom Dashle.
In New Jersey, meanwhile, Lautenberg is now crushing Andrews 64% to 31% with 46% reporting. In the GOP race, former Rep. Zimmer is narrowly leading.

9:10pm:"That's not change we can believe in," McCain repeated in a speech that was interrupted at before its completion as the networks wanted to call the Democratic race. Did the McCain campaign realize this was the candidate's first primetime speech since March 4th and his first general election speech? Is this how he wants to reintroduce himself to voters and launch his general election campaign? In what was intended to frame his showdown with Obama, McCain devoted much of his speech to attacking the Illinois Senator, accusing his opponent of being in the pocket of special interests, of threatening to lead Iraq into chaos and more generally questioned Obama's judgment. Overall, the tone of McCain's comments were overwhelmingly negative, which I believe was a mistake considering that the rest of the night would clearly be a celebration of Obama's candidacy and that this was McCain chance to launch his general election campaign on his own terms. And I am not even mentioning the terrible delivery, the strange snicker before each rendition of "That's not change we can believe in," the obvious teleprompter reading, and the very sparse crowd weakly cheering and jeering (could McCain not find a better venue and a bigger crowd for this important speech?).

McCain did attempt to define himself as well, choosing to emphasize his reputation as an independent voice who is in the pocket of neither party. He repeated that his priority is working "for you" and claimed the mantle of change. He also did his best to distance himself from President Bush, repeating that he does not represent a third term (talk about being on the defensive) and that he has long opposed the president on issues like climate change and the management of the Iraq war. McCain also emphasized his new slogan, "A leader we can believe in," a rip-off of Obama's slogan that is meant to emphasize that Obama's promise is "empty hope" and that only McCain has the judgment to lead the country.

9pm: Networks announce that Obama has earned more than 2,118 delegates and is projected as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
The polls closed in South Dakota and, while it is too early to call a winner, Obama cannot not win a few delegates there and thus get the 4-5 delegates he needed as of 10 minutes ago.
Surprisingly, the polls actually show Clinton leading in South Dakota! ARG's poll, which came out of nowhere to show her ahead two days ago, could be vindicated and Clinton could leave on a high note (note that Clinton also picked up a last minute superdelegate!)

8:40pm: Frank Lautenberg is off to a decent start though Andrews is coming in stronger than expected, as the incumbent leads 55% to 40% with 9% of precincts reporting. Keep in mind that Andrews launched in the battle stunningly late, and if he manages to keep this relatively close he will really come to regret not having launched his race months earlier. It takes time to organize a statewide primary battle against as established an incumbent as Lautenberg.

Original Post:
The last results thread of the primary season will, appropriately enough, be devoted less to raw results than to superdelegate endorsements. Polls close at 9pm and 10pm ET in Montana and South Dakota and given the pace at which superdelegates are endorsing, it is possible that Obama will clinch the nomination before polls close in either of those states. Polls have also closed in Alabama and New Jersey, which are holding some contested primaries today, so we shall soon know whether Frank Lautenberg survived the last-minute primary challenge mounted by Rep. Andrews.

For now, here are some guidelines of what to watch for tonight.

Labels: , ,


  • Well it looks like Obama is going to the democratic nominee, and not by just a narrow margin thx to the superdelegates. One thing is that if Clinton wins SD like the last polls postulates then Obama will lose one SD from Sen. Johnson but other than that no other Obama SDs are going to switch to Clinton.

    In terms of Congressional primaries, the two most interesting is of the NJ senate and NM Senate. Lautenberg will probably surivive the primary because Rep. Andrews just mounted his primary challange to late (if he had done this in 2007, when Lautenberg was at his weakest he could have been able to do it). The NM Senate GOP primary is interesting: the key will be how much of a "unity" bounce the GOP nominee will get. In particually, in the coming days or weeks will Pearce or wilson come within single digits of Udall? If they do then NM has a chance of being competive, if they do not then NM will be a lost cause for Senate Republicans.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 03 June, 2008 20:38  

  • Clinton is ahead about 12 points with 9% of the vote in in SD. This means that if Obama wins SD, it's very likely it will only by a narrow margin, while Clinton can possibly win the state by double digits. I've looked at some exit polls and Obama is very likely to counter a possible Clinton SD victory with a double digit victory in Montana, but those polls don't close till a little under an hour.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 03 June, 2008 21:09  

  • Clinton has considerable leverage, and it is to her advantage that she does not give up without getting some concessions from the Obama campaign. She can afford to wait on them. But they will have to come to her and bring some offers to the bargaining table.

    By Blogger Daniel Greenfield, At 03 June, 2008 22:05  

  • Taniel, Clinton doesn't think she can reverse the tide. She's smart enough to know it's over. Obama needs to give her nothing at this point to get the nomination. However, as Dan said, to get her real (as opposed to official) support for the fall, he's going to have to offer her something of value. She's probably holding out for that, and for her future hopes.

    My advice for her is not to wait too long. The value of her holdings diminishes every day now, and even those Democratic leaders who have shown extraordinary patience with her will withdraw both their indulgence AND their support for any future Clinton endeavors if she doesn't back out now, or very soon from now.

    By Anonymous Mr. Rational, At 03 June, 2008 22:10  

  • Well my personal opinion is that if Clinton really wants to be on the ticket, she will drop out of the race by the end of the week. If next monday comes and she still hasn't conceded then the democratic divisions will start to become permament, and in addition her own political future will start to be hurt. I do think that she is leaning more to dropping out this week than staying in beyond.

    On the congressional races, in NJ senate, Andrews clearly made a major mistake by not getting into the race in 2007. I know that for much of 2007 Lautenberg was extremly weak politically, and that would have been ripe for Andrews to jump in. Unforantely, he jumped in after Lautenberg had started to get his apporval back up and when the Dem establishemt was coming back to support him.

    On NM GOP race, it seems that Domenci endorsement helped Wilson alot, much more than what people had thought.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 03 June, 2008 23:08  

  • An interesting report from Howard Fineman, which seems to confirm my own thoughts on the state of the Dem "dream ticket." For the sake of fairness, I would like to point out that this is hearsay, albeit fairly credible hearsay:


    By Anonymous Mr. Rational, At 03 June, 2008 23:33  

  • Obama's in the fire now, let's see how he holds up. Without Hillary to take all the heat he's going to have to fend for himself. Remember that he doesn't have enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination. The superdelegates can go whichever way the wind blows in August. They could easily just drop Obama like yesterday's news. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Hillary to drop out. She's still far more electable.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 June, 2008 06:25  

  • Anon 6:25, you are right: the Superdelegates can change thier mind from now to november. But it is very improbable that they would change thier mind now. I also seriously doubt that Clinton would damage her own future political career by taking the convention all the way to November. Maybe by August you will be comfortable with Obama, but you can decide to support McCain or anyone else if you choose: it is a free country.

    On CA-04, The Republicans are favored in this GOP leaning district no matter who as nominated, as long the Republicans come together. Tom McClintock is happy that he hs a chance to come back into the limelight. Defeating Brown won't be a cakewalk but at least he has an advantage that Dollita would not have had.

    On the NM Senate race, you are right Taniel: that Wilson was able to make it close in a low turnout and overwhelming conservative GOP primary speaks to her general strenghts as a candidate. Nonthelsess her career (at least for now) is over, and now we have to see how much of an unity boost Pearce gets against Udall. The main reason why he decided to get into the race was that polls had shown him to be the stronger candidate, probably because he is untainted by the attorny scandal that hurt both Wilson and Domenci. Nontheless, I think Pearce will be easier for Udall to defeat than the scrappy moderate Wilson. If Pearce is to have any chance, he needs to be polling within single digits in a few weeks time. If by July he still is behind Udall by double digits, NM will likely be seen as a lost cause by Senate Republicans.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 04 June, 2008 08:57  

  • In your dreams anon 6:25. Anyway Congratulations to all Americans. I don't think some of you understand the historical relevance of what just happened. It's a good day for Americans!!

    By Anonymous ACE, At 04 June, 2008 08:58  

  • Hmm, Ted Kennedy really blew his career didn't he? A senator for decades doesn't seem like much of a punishment for taking a fight to the convention. Obama may have just claimed the presumptive nominee title, but keeping it through the convention and winning the WH are a whole new game. I still don't give him good odds. That argument of "damaging her career" really makes a convention floor fight more likely, not less.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 June, 2008 10:15  

  • First off, superdelegates can't "change their mind through November." They vote in Denver in August. What they do afterwards is irrelevant. The nominee isn't chosen until August in Denver, folks, because all those superdelegates and pledged delegates don't cast one vote until DENVER.

    Secondly, no one is the nominee unless they get enough pledged delegates or the other candidate concedes and drops out and endorses. So, Obama has "claimed" the nomination, but he is not the official nominee because he doesn't have enough PLEDGED delegates to officially do so. Remember, it's the pledged delegate count until the superdelegates and the pledged delegates vote in August at the Convention in Denver.

    Everything else is rubbish, though I love campaign diaries--excellent political analysis here! :)

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