Monday, June 2, 2008

Fighting Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom says the fight for the Democratic nomination for President is over. Barack Obama is under 40 delegate votes away from the "magic" number of 2,118, and with him guaranteed to gain at least 15 tomorrow (and likely closer to 17), 34 House members set to endorse him by Wednesday, and at least 15 Senators ready to endorse as well, the nomination battle is over. We have our winner, and our winner be Obama.

So, as conventional wisdom goes, Senator Clinton is wrapping up her campaign. Inviting donors to her speech in, where else, her home state of New York (while Obama's speech tomorrow is in the general election battleground and home of the Republican Convention, St. Paul, Minnesota). Telling her staff to go home, but to get their receipts in before they leave. After all, Senator Clinton is a "realist" they say, and she's always pledged to leave the race as soon as that magic number is reached and the Democrats have a nominee.

So why do I feel so nervous about tomorrow? And it's not nervousness about whether Senator Obama will have enough Super Delegates endorse him during the day so he can claim the nomination after the polls close in Montana tomorrow. It's worry over what Hillary will do, because despite the conventional wisdom, I don't think she's going anywhere.

Even after the national networks declare Obama the victor, and even after the flood of Super Delegates which will surely come by Wednesday afternoon, I can see Senator Clinton fighting. Saying that she won the popular vote (even though to do so she has to count Puerto Rico, but not count the Virgin Island, Guam, and American Samoa, and count Michigan, but not give Obama any votes from Michigan, and not count a group of caucus states which went overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, like Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, and Washington. As I've been saying, if you have to explain HOW you are leading in the popular vote, that's probably a pretty good hint you aren't leading in the popular vote). She'll say Super Delegates can always change their mind, and that she needs to fight for the people of Michigan (who, by the way, are just fine thank you with the compromise the state itself asked for, and received, on Saturday). And at that point, there is no end point. Why would she ever get out before the convention? If the argument is, and Hillary herself made it yesterday, Super Delegates are always free to change their mind, then she has no reason to get out before the Convention, even if she falls behind by an overwhelming margin.

So where does that leave us? The Democratic Leadership (Reid, Pelosi, Dean, Gore) will likely give Clinton a few days to decide, but if she keeps fighting, I'd look for those four to start campaigning with Obama. But, until Hillary Clinton drops out, endorses Obama, and starts campaigning herself for Obama, the Democratic party will never come together. She has to not just endorse Obama and campaign for him, she has to do so soon because her supporters are very angry right now, and if she waits until the Convention, claims a fictional popular vote lead all summer, and loses (as she undoubtedly would) at the Convention in late August, her supporters won't have enough grieving time (for lack of a better word) to come around to unite the party. Instead, they will be even more resolute then they are today, and the Democrats are finished in November.

I hope for the sake of the Democratic Party, and for our country (which would be much better served by a President Obama than a President McCain, despite the latter's status as a genuine American hero) that I am wrong and conventional wisdom is right. But if we have learned anything over this long, long primary campaign, it's that conventional wisdom is rarely, if ever, correct.

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