It’s All Over but the Concession


Hillary Clinton has maybe a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Democratic nomination. And privately, team Clinton agrees. That is what Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen are saying over at The Politico. Why continue the pretense then?

Journalists have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is closer than it really is. Most coverage breathlessly portrays the race as a down-to-the-wire sprint between two well-matched candidates, one only slightly better situated than the other to win in August at the national convention in Denver.

One reason is fear of embarrassment. In its zeal to avoid predictive reporting of the sort that embarrassed journalists in New Hampshire, the media — including Politico — have tended to avoid zeroing in on the tough math Clinton faces.

Avoiding predictions based on polls even before voters cast their ballots is wise policy. But that’s not the same as drawing sober and well-grounded conclusions about the current state of a race after millions of voters have registered their preferences.

The antidote to last winter’s flawed predictions is not to promote a misleading narrative based on the desired but unlikely story line of one candidate.

There are other forces also working to preserve the notion of a contest that is still up for grabs.

One important, if subliminal, reason is self-interest. Reporters and editors love a close race — it’s more fun and it’s good for business.

The media are also enamored of the almost mystical ability of the Clintons to work their way out of tight jams, as they have done for 16 years at the national level. That explains why some reporters are inclined to believe the Clinton campaign when it talks about how she’s going to win on the third ballot at the Democratic National Convention in August.

That’s certainly possible — and, to be clear, we’d love to see the race last that long — but it’s folly to write about this as if it is likely.

It’s also hard to overstate the role the talented Clinton camp plays in shaping the campaign narrative, first by subtly lowering the bar for the performance necessary to remain in the race, and then by keeping the focus on Obama’s relationships with a political fixer and a controversial pastor in Illinois.

Mark Halperin is saying the same thing (h/t John Cole). Here are Mark’s reasons 4, 5, and 6 (John has the first three):

4. Nancy Pelosi and other leading members of Congress don’t think she can win and want her to give up. Same with superdelegate-to-the-stars Donna Brazile.5. Obama’s skilled, close-knit staff can do things like silently kill re-votes in Florida and Michigan and not pay a political price.6. Many of her supporters — and even some of her staffers — would be relieved (and even delighted) if she quit the race; none of his supporters or staff feel that way. Some think she just might throw in the towel in June if it appears efforts to fight on would hurt Obama’s general election chances.

And what if the situation were reversed?

… Let’s say that right now, Barack Obama trailed Hillary Clinton among delegates, statewide victories, and popular votes. The margins are such where it’s extremely unlikely he’d catch up before the convention. She’d raised more money than him, and had won 14 of the last 17 Democratic contests, almost all by wide margins.

Would there be intense pressure for Obama to face facts, consider the good of the party, drop out of the race? I think any fair reading of the political landscape suggests the answer is yes.

But, this is, of course, the exact circumstances we have today, except it’s Clinton trailing, not leading. …
[…]
And yet, I get the sense no one — not campaign reporters, not the candidates, no one in the party — is supposed to admit any of this. Instead, the conventional wisdom is that the race for the nomination is “practically tied,” and will go “down to the wire.”
[…]
… when was the last time a reporter from a major outlet pressed Clinton on when she will drop out of the race? If the shoe were on the other foot, and Obama’s campaign thought it had no better than a 10% chance of getting the party’s nod, would he hear the question a lot more often?

Yep, but we still have the blogosphere. BooMan makes the case for why Clinton should drop out:

I’ve seen it in the sincere questions of anna in philly and in the snide remarks of Armando. There is this idea out there that Hillary Clinton should stay in the race just in case Barack Obama’s campaign implodes and it appears that he is totally unelectable by the time the nominating convention takes place at the end of August.

This idea is based on a total misunderstanding of how the nominating process works. None of the delegates (pledged or unpledged) are legally bound to vote for a particular candidate on the first vote at the convention. For the pledged delegates there is an obvious commitment to support the candidate they were elected to support. But the only barrier to them changing their support is their own conscience. If they can defend their decision to their peers they will have no further qualms about changing their vote.

To take an obvious example, if Obama were to get caught visiting high-priced call girls, like Eliot Spitzer, few pledged delegates would feel obligated to stick with him. In that hypothetical scenario, Hillary Clinton’s strong performance in the primaries and her large bloc of pledged delegates would make her a heavy favorite to be the replacement nominee.

If we are to appraise the current state of affairs fairly and honestly, we’ll realize that Clinton’s chances in such a situation will be unlikely to depend on the number of delegates she picks up from this point forward. She’ll have the strongest case to be the nominee even if she wins no more delegates. It’s possible that the nomination could go to Al Gore or some other candidate, but improving her odds of preventing that is a horribly weak rationale for continuing a campaign built around the argument that Barack Obama is not fit to lead the nation.

Matthew Yglesias:

… Dragging things out ’till the convention stands a much, much, much higher chance of hurting Barack Obama’s chances in the general election than it does of securing Clinton the nomination. I understand the calculation from the point of view of the heart of the Clinton campaign — McCain beating Obama in the general means the Clintons still control the party, so there’s no need to worry about helping McCain and you might as well hold on and hope lightning strikes. But the broader mass of unaffiliated elites and Clinton supporters who aren’t literally on her payroll are, in my view, acting in a massively irresponsible manner.

Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Obama today is just another blow to Clinton’s chances.

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2 Comments on “It’s All Over but the Concession”

  1. 22coffees Says:

    Did you see the bombshell in The Nation about her lying about her position on NAFTA? If the story gets picked up – and it should – that will pretty much sink her chances in PA.

  2. Kathy Says:

    I did *not* see that. I’m going to take a look right now.


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