It's Ain't Over Yet
Having been rather busy last week, I'm a bit behind on blogging. I thought the best way to catch up and comment on the state of the race is to respond to Steve's question on why Sen. Clinton would stay in the race despite facing significant debt ($). West Virginia aside, I can think of so many reasons. Here are a few, not necessarily in order.
Political: Sen. Clinton appears to be staying in the race because she really believes she has a much better chance of delivering the White House to Democrats in November than Sen. Obama. I have seen a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about who has a better chance of winning against Sen. McCain and obviously supporters of Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton both have strong views about their respective candidates' electability. My view has been unchanged since December. I strongly believe Sen. Clinton has a much better chance of beating her Republican opponent - esp. Sen. McCain - than Sen. Obama, once the GOP and media attacks begin. The events of the last couple of months have only solidified my view. More importantly, neither candidate will have enough pledged delegates to cross the delegate threshold (more on this below), there is just a slight difference between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama on the popular vote and she's still got a shot at coming out ahead on this metric when all the races are over (see Jay Cost's spreadsheet where Sen. Clinton just beat his popular vote estimate for WV, and Cost's article from last week "Not Quite Yet"). Moreover, according to the rules of the primary, the role of superdelegates is to exercise independent judgment, and given the other not so minor detail that Sen. Obama has not won yet, there is absolutely no reason for her to quit now. The fact that her chances of winning are low doesn't mean her chances of winning are zero. When you are this close on the popular vote and creaming your opponent by over 40% after he has been crowned the nominee (by the media and big chunks of the blogosphere) then you have every reason to stay in the race. [Fun fact: Nebraska - discussed later in this post].
Don't Let The Media Define the Rules of Elections: One of the fundamental values I have sought to see in Democrats is that they not quit before the votes are counted and certainly not quit because the media asks them to quit. I was appalled at what happened in 2000 when Vice President Gore was hounded in the media and declared a "sore loser" even before a Florida recount. I was very disappointed in 2004 when Sen. Kerry gave up quickly without a proper recount in Ohio, ostensibly because he didn't want to be branded a "sore loser". I am sick and tired of Democrats who refuse to stand up for democracy and who are more concerned about what elitist jokers like Tim Russert, David Broder, Frank Rich or (fill in the blanks) think of them than they care about the Democratic party's ideals - one of which is making sure as many people can vote and another being that every vote should be counted. So, if Sen. Clinton can afford to campaign till June 3rd and she and her supporters continue to fund her campaign (I certainly will), I would consider myself indebted to her if she does exactly that and demonstrates that the era of the media ordering candidates around is effectively over. I want a Fighting Democrat as President and as good as Sen. Obama may be as a candidate, there's only one Fighting Democrat left in this race and that's Sen. Hillary Clinton (also see here). As Emily's List President Ellen Malcolm said recently in her op-ed focusing on the calls for Sen. Clinton to quit - "winners never quit and...quitters never win". In fact, there is simply no other American candidate in modern history that I'm aware of who withstood absolutely unprecedented and sustained levels of hostility in the media and blogosphere, was outspent by huge margins in state after state (even WV), was insulted and demeaned in the worst manner possible - sometimes by alleged progressives, and yet, stayed resolute and focused and revealed the true fighter that she is. Her blowout victory in West Virginia where she amassed an impressive popular vote gain under record turnout follows a series of victories in big states despite calls for her to drop out - this is particularly noteworthy coming as it did after the morale-depressing commentary in the media last week about how the race was over. [Big bonus for Democrats if Sen. Clinton becomes the nominee: She is building a massive base of Democratic voters who don't trust the media to tell the truth about Democrats (like her) and who have deep contempt for the gasbags in the media. This is a dream come true for me because building voter skepticism about the media has been one of the principal failings of the Democratic party for a long time and she's almost single-handedly accomplishing what to me should be one of the holy grails of Democratic and progressive politics, i.e., making voters realize that the media is elitist and often dishonest in how it transmits false, often Republican (and increasingly fake "progressive") talking points about Democrats. Another holy grail that she's on the right side of - she has been long been firmly in support of funding alternative progressive institutions and groups outside the Democratic party apparatus that are critical to ensuring the long term success of the progressive movement; contrast that with Sen. Obama's inclinations.]
Universal Healthcare: Yet another reason why she should not drop out has to do with one of the biggest issues facing the country - something that affects the poor and working class of all races and backgrounds - universal healthcare. As I have said before, Sen. Clinton represents the only remaining opportunity to really get universal healthcare passed in the next 4 years. Granted, the chances of her getting it passed are less than 50% but those odds are much better than the odds that truly universal healthcare will get passed by an Obama administration (0%). To me, this alone is an important enough reason for her to stay in the race to be the Democratic nominee, especially given the other considerations above.
History and Change: Having the first female President in the United States - especially someone with her impressive experience, knowledge, courage and resilience - would be an enormous positive change for the country and path-breaking for roughly half of the American population - women.
Florida and Michigan: It would be disastrous for the Democratic party to disenfranchise Michigan and Florida. Moreover, as Obama supporter Chris Bowers noted last month in his post "No Objective Delegate Math", the magic delegate number is 2208, not 2025. Since revote primaries in FL and MI were not supported by the Obama campaign, we have no choice but to use the results of the previous elections to decide how MI/FL votes/delegates get allocated. Big Tent Democrat has more on this. The DNC Rules Committee very much has the right to seat these delegates according to the rules of this primary and until they make their final decision on this (and we can be sure that the egregious Donna Brazile will try to not significantly undo what she did), any declarations of victory would be no different than prematurely declaring Mission Accomplished.
Let me stop there and let readers provide more of their own reasons, but a brief note on Sen. Clinton's win in West Virginia - a 41% victory margin and a nearly 150,000 popular vote gain (which would have likely been even higher if Sen. Edwards had not been on the ballot and which erased roughly 70% of Sen. Obama's popular vote gain last week). It has been downright depressing to see some people stereotype lower income working class whites as racists and distort Sen. Clinton's argument about working class voters, when the fact remains that both Al Gore and John Kerry lost white working class voters by huge margins (and lost WV) not because of racism.
Let's close with some observations on Nebraska. Nebraska held a primary yesterday not just for the Republican party but also for the Democratic party - the latter being irrelevant when it comes to delegates but important to assess the impact of caucuses v. primaries. When Nebraska held its Democratic caucus on Super Tuesday (Feb), the turnout was around 38760 and Sen. Obama won the caucus 68%-32%, giving him a popular vote margin of almost 14000 votes. Yesterday, the primary attracted 93161 voters and the result was 49-47% in favor of Sen. Obama, with Mike Gravel taking up the remaining 4%. In other words, a 36-point caucus victory was reduced to a 2-point primary victory for Sen. Obama along with a much lower popular vote margin of just ~2600 votes. This lends further credence to the points I have made previously. Taking no credit away from Sen. Obama for his caucus victories, the fact remains that his large victory margins in caucuses are clearly inflated significantly by the lower turnouts in the caucuses and may not be representative of any unique advantages for him in the general election. This is consistent with previous trends and is important to note because it cuts against the conventional wisdom about the significance of those caucus victories. As Anglachel observed yesterday:
OK, I can see a loss in a state where demographics favor your opponent, but 41%? Of the front-running presumptive nominee? Who outspent Hillary 2-to-1 and has the entire MSM lined up singing his praises?
In contest after contest, we see him failing to turn out the massive numbers that his allegedly unstoppable movement says they command. We see dominance in highly restrictive caucuses. We see him turning out super-majorities of AA voters. We see him dominating urban areas where you have upper income liberals. We see the college aged children of those liberal families voting in university areas.
What we aren't seeing is any new coalitions for the Democratic Party coming out of his organizing. We aren't seeing his share of the electorate increase. If anything, it is declining, given his defeats in OH, TX, PA, IN and WV, and what looks like a royal shellacking in the works in KY....In a Nebraska primary held today, which was like Washington State's with no delegates awarded, he's barely 2 points ahead. This was a caucus state that went for him 60/40 [Eriposte note: actually 68-32]. Hmm, maybe he didn't have all that much support there? Maybe he won big there because the voters didn't turn out?
It is beginning to look like the main reason for Obama's red state caucus successes is the absence of voters, not the presence of new ones.
Without a doubt, Sen. Obama has a strong and deep following within the traditional Democratic base, but the evidence that he is building a new and broad coalition is much less compelling when we analyze the demographics of the recent races and deflate the results of the caucuses by acknowledging the reality of turnouts. It is also clear that ever since being declared as the likely nominee who has the nomination pretty much sewn up, he has been repeatedly underperforming the scenarios from his own campaign at least since April - in PA, IN, Guam and now WV (NC was the only exception). That says something about the state of this race and what it means for the Fall.
P.S. Andrewwalker08 has more on the Nebraska results and what they mean in the context of the DNC's stated principles - here.