May 08, 2008

The Democrats Move Toward Closure

After the American Century

Yesterday we had heard only that Hillary Clinton had loaned some money to her campaign. Today it has become clear that she has put $6 million of her own cash into what now appears a lost cause. Generally, American voters do not like to hear that candidates are trying to buy their way to power. Romney also was pumping his own wealth into his bid for the presidency. In hard times, voters cannot help but think that Clinton's wealth puts a barrier between her and the vast majority of Americans. Her claims to emphasize with their hardships ring a little hollow when they realize that she has so much money.  More importantly, potential donors begin to head for the exits. As noted here yesterday and confirmed by more reports since, many of Clinton's donors have maxed out on what they can give her, and it is hard to find true believers in her candidacy now. 

In terms of delegates, the primaries two days ago increased Obama's lead by 13. Many analysts have concluded that Hillary has no mathematical chance of winning the nomination, even if somehow Florida and Michigan delegations are allowed in. Significantly, in the last 24 hours one superdelegate dropped Hillary and announced for Barack, and three more also decided to back him. So she has fallen further behind, with fewer places to make up the difference  She has not had any new superdelegate endorsements. 

Meanwhile, some party figures are asking her to go gracefully. One of the most prominent calls for her to give up the fight came from former Senator George McGovern, the 1972 presidential candidate. It is also an open secret that Jimmy Carter has been leaning toward Obama for some time. He might choose this moment to throw his prestige behind him. 

Meanwhile, Obama has conspicuously taken a day off in Chicago, while Hillary is out stumping in West Virginia. She is presumably doing this mostly to keep getting her picture in the paper and to show that she is fighting on. But everyone expects her to win there anyway. Perhaps she wants  a victory there, and depart from the race as a winner. Presumably Obama wants that scenario too, because it would embarrass him if she dropped out and still won West Virginia. So a possible scenario is that she is given only token opposition this week, has the pleasure of a final face-saving victory, and then drops out for financial reasons.

Of course, Clinton can just keep spending her own money and drag the battle out for another month. But at some point, the loss of all the money will begin to hurt. Her advisors may suggest that to preserve some good will in the party that might be needed to fight for the nomination another day, it might be time to think about an exit strategy.

Significantly, Clinton stopped attacking Obama yesterday, and he has also been careful to say nothing derogatory about her. He asked his supporters to refrain from calling for her to give up. Rhetorically, this was a good move. In effect, he said that it was time for her to depart, and yet he did not say that at all. He stressed that this is her call. But make no mistake, the Democrats are moving toward an earnestly desired closure.