I'm traveling this morning, so only could a quick post. Sorry in advance for any typos....
So, after Senator Clinton's impressive win last night, where are we?
In a post yesterday, I wondered whether Senator Clinton still had the power on her own to alter the dynamic of the race, a dynamic that currently has Senator Obama winning and her losing. There can be no question now that Senator Clinton had a big "win" last night, and initial fundraising numbers show her in the process of reloading her depleted coffers. So it is possible that last night was more than postponing the inevitable -- it was a new opening, a new opportunity for her to recast the race.
We will know more about that in the next few days. Things to look for are the national poll numbers (which have been trending heavily against her in recent days), both her fundraising and Senator Obama's, the polls in the next round of states and whether she can raise her own game up and start crafting a more positive vision for the country. Her recent spate of brutal attacks on Senator Obama have dramatically increased her own negatives. So while it may have kept him from getting too close in Pennsylvania, it has cost her in the rest of the country. She will have to take on the growing unhappiness with the tone of her campaign (an issue I discussed a while back) that is beginning to permeate the chattering classes, if she is to have any chance of winning the nomination and going on to win the Presidency.
As for Senator Obama, I offered some thoughts on the state of his campaign on Monday. His job is a different one from Senator Clinton's. Among the things I might suggest is that he needs to re-orient his campaign around the economy (his closing Pennsylvania ads did not directly address the economy, both the number one issue in the race and Senator Clinton's greatest strength), more adroitly indict - not attack - his opponent, dramatically improve the paid advertising of the campaign, which has yet to produce a single memorable piece of video or demonstrate that it can move numbers in key states and address his perceived weakness with Hispanics.
From my conversations with reporters yesterday, the idea that "he can't close" is taking hold in the media, and I think is a serious and important notion for his campaign to address. It speaks to many things - his inexperience, his toughness, his leadership skills and his ability to play the game.
Just as I wrote that the six weeks after March 4 would be tough for Senator Clinton, these next two weeks will be a truly important test for Senator Obama. He needs to prevent erosion, keep his supporters excited, address some long overdue weaknesses in his campaign and show that he has the kind of grit, toughness and wisdom to be an effective President.
So did last night alter the dynamic of the race? It is too early to tell. After March 4, Senator Clinton seemed to drift, lose focus. Senator Obama seemed to raise his game. So one never knows. But these next two weeks are going to be an extraordinary thing to watch, and very important in both picking the nominee and preparing that nominee for a tough battle in the fall.
In the last few weeks, a new fundamental dynamic for the Democratic nomination has emerged. It is now clear that Senator Obama is winning the race, and Senator Clinton is losing.
The big question tonight is whether even a significant victory by Senator Clinton alters this fundamental dynamic. I am increasingly of the belief that it won't.
To review, Senator Obama has won more states, more votes, more delegates, is about to catch up on super delegates, has built a far superior and modern campaign, has dramatically outraised his opponent and is ahead in all national polls, in one by more than 10 points. He is doing much better than Senator Clinton with Independents. If current trends continue, he will end the primary season less than 100 delegates from the amount needed to win, meaning that it won't take much to put him over the top. Based on the new FEC reports, Senator Clinton is also functionally out of money or in the process of going deep into debt. And as I wrote recently, even the argument that Senator Clinton has won more important states doesn't hold up under scrutiny.
Which is why her often repeated argument that she will be a stronger general election candidate is silly. If you get beat by your opponent fair and square, how can you claim to be a stronger candidate?
As Noam Scheiber just wrote, I have long been saying that this six-week window between March and April 22 was going to be a very bad period for Senator Clinton. It allowed the Party elites and the media enough time to actually figure out what was going on in this confusing nominating process. This slow period allowed it to become understood that Senator Obama was in fact winning and Senator Clinton losing, Period. No mulligans. No changing the rules midway through the game. By the end of March, all understood that Senator Obama had all but locked this thing up.
In this period, it also became clear to some that Senator Clinton no longer really had the power, the ability, to alter this dynamic. She couldn't win enough of the states left to get back in the game. She can no longer win the popular vote. The super delegates have broken heavily against her. The Party has kept its word, and, despite over-the-top efforts by the Clinton campaign, properly disallowed the Florida and Michigan results. Her chief strategist, her campaign manager and a top political strategist have left, and her new campaign manager, while respected, has virtually no campaign experience. Her money has dried up. The Tuzla story, for those who paid close attention to it, showed that she had the capacity to strategically lie, repeatedly, recklessly, about something of great importance. And now her relentless attacks on Senator Obama, by dramatically raising her own negatives, have weakened her own candidacy more than it has damaged him, leaving her in a more precarious national position.
I have never believed that if Senator Clinton knew she was going to lose that she would continue on past the point at which it was becoming ruinous to her very bright future. Smart politicians, as the saying goes, know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. And the Clintons are smart politicians. When that moment - the moment the candidate decides to drop out - comes in a campaign, it is never simple. But it often has to do more with money than with honor. And right now, the thing to watch is whether the outcome tonight is enough for her to keep raising the $20 million or so a month she needs to keep going. If not, the race could be over quickly. If she does have a strong and convincing win, and can quickly raise enough money to keep her supporters confident that she still has a shot, perhaps this will go on to mid-June. There will be shouts of "Comeback Kid, 3!" - but I am no longer convinced that even this scenario is possible any longer.
So even if Senator Clinton wins big tonight, it does not mean she will have the power or ability to win the nomination. She perhaps will have staved off defeat, but not recovered enough to be back in this thing. Of course, technically, she could win. But for her to win now requires an extraordinary event, one that would have to essentially end the Obama candidacy, something that, after his adequate management of the Wright and bitter moments, I no longer think she has the power herself to bring about. For her to win, it will require a political miracle, an Obama stumble of monumental proportions. Possible? Yes. Likely? No way. So why go on?
Perhaps, perhaps, what she is seeking is not a victory then, but what she and her husband have been seeking with such ferocity since the beginning of this campaign - a better and more honorable ending to what has been our promising, exhilarating, prosperous, productive and occasionally deeply disappointing long, national relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton.
And as long as there is a chance, even a small chance, of that coming about through this process, the battle may indeed go on - as long as the money holds out.
The Education of Obama - Both the Times and the Post have stories today about Obama "sharpening" his attack against Senator Clinton. My view on this is this tougher rhetoric is long overdue from the Democratic frontrunner, for politics is both about making your own case while effectively indicting your opponent. One of our great strenghts in the 1992 Clinton campaign was our ability to indict President Bush without sounding too partisan and mean spirited. To win in the fall Obama will have to make a powerful and very public indictment of Senator McCain and the failed government of this era. In no way does this cut against his "bringing everyone together" narrative, and simply another tool in his tool box he must develop if he is to win, and to govern.
As I wrote recently I still think Senator Obama should have used the "bitter" flap as he did the Jeremiah Wright controversy. He should have taken the opportunity to give a major speech about the struggle of every day people, demonstrating he both understands how the lack of an adequate government response to globalization is making it harder for people to get ahead, and that he has a comprehensive plan to do something about it. His economic argument is still too political, too focused on attacking Senator Clinton over her NAFTA position than on offering a compelling argument on how he intends to raise the standard of living of all Americans. The inability of the Obama campaign to organize themselves around the struggle of the middle class has been, and continues to be, one of the great strategic weaknesses of this year's remarkable campaign.
For more on this read John Heilemann's excellent new essay in New York Magazine which features some commentary from the head of our globalization initiative, Rob Shapiro.
Not a big fan of McSame - Some of the early arguments coming from the Democratic/ progressive side attempt to make McCain into Bush. But I think this approach is bound to fail. McCain is his own man. He isn't George Bush. They may have worked together to bring about this disasterous conservative era. They have similar beliefs. But McCain isn't Bush. He has a powerful and compelling personal narrative. His take on Iraq is different. His economic plan is different. His position on immigration is different. It is time for those who have opposed Bush to let go of him as a man, and begin making the indictment against his beliefs, his government and the mess he and his team - with McCain's help - have left us. The country has written Bush off, and is turning the page. It is time for the progressive movement to do the same.
To that end I think the new DNC Ad is a good one. It takes McCain's own words and ties them to the performance of the conservative economic strategy now embraced by the Arizona Senator. An editorial in the Post today further disembles the inanity of McCain's emerging economic arguments, providing much more new material for those of us who have opposed the bankrupt and failed economic approach of the modern conservatives.
For more on McCain be sure to read yesterday's frontpage WaPo story on McCain's temperment, something that has been a constant discussion item here in DC chattering classes since the campaign began.
McCain and Immigration - Our very own Andres Ramirez has an excellent new post reminding everyone that during the heat of his primary battle John McCain abandonned his own immigration reform bill, and now repdudiates it on the campaign trail. It is an extraordinary example of McCain's maturation in recent years from virtuous outsider to hollowed-out, craven pol, willing to say and do anything to get elected.
There can now be little doubt that Senator Obama's recent comments in San Francisco have become a major test for this candidacy. The ad Senator Clinton launched yesterday on the subject is one of the most powerful ads of this election cycle, and will require a sustained and significant response from the Obama campaign.
As Senator Obama demonstrated in the recent flap over Jeremiah Wright, every attack is an opportunity to offer a very public response. For the Obama campaign those words will never be able to be taken back, but what his campaign can do is to view this as a moment to better address the core of what is being discussed here - his understanding of the struggle of every day people, and to better clarify his plan to raise improve the lives of those facing increased struggle and hardship in an era when the standing of the middle class has deteriorated. As I have written many times, I have long felt this whole area has been a weakness for Senator Obama and his campaign. This moment is in essence an opportunity to correct a major structural weakness in his candidacy and thus if handled successfully could be a moment of great opportunity for the Senator.
Campaigns are a series of tests, some small, some big. For Senator Obama a few words spoken in private have begun to drown out the millions of words he has spoken throughout this long and grueling campaign. But that is politics, and this new test may be among the most consequential and important faced by Senator Obama so far.
In the last few weeks Clinton spokesman after Clinton spokesman has made the claim that Senator Clinton had won more important states than Senator Obama. I have tried hard to figure out what this claim means and simply cannot.
The Rasmussen electoral college analysis lists 13 states as being up for grabs this fall (with EV counts): Florida (27), Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), Michigan (17), Virginia (13), Missouri (11), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (7), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5) and New Hampshire (4).
Obama has won Virginia, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa and won more delegates in Nevada. 6 states, 60 Electoral College votes. Clinton has won Ohio, New Mexico and New Hampshire. 3 states, 29 Electoral College votes.
Florida and Michigan did not have legitimate elections, and PA has not voted yet.
That makes 6 states for Obama, 3 for Clinton, 1 in dispute, 2 not legitimate and 1 not yet voted, with Obama having won twice as many states and Electoral College votes than Senator Clinton. So how exactly has the Clinton campaign won more critical states than Obama?
There are good arguments to make for Senator Clinton's candidacy. The "important state" one is not one of them.
Both the Rasmussen and Gallup national daily tracks are showing significant and sustained new movement for Obama.
Gallup now has him up by 10 ponts, 52% to 42%, a net change of 17 points in the last ten days. Rasmussen has it 47% to 42%, and McCain 47% Obama 44%, McCain 50% Clinton 40%.
For reasons I don't really understand the Clinton campaign seems to have to lacked a real game plan since its strong showing on March 4th. Much of what is breaking through in for the campaign in the national media are process stories, and increasingly those stories are now a variation of the road ahead is a hard one. It has been a very bad few message weeks for the Clinton world.
The last time the Clinton camp found themselves in such a sustained message trough they launched the 3am ad, which seemed to fundamentally alter the dynamic of the race, for at least a few critical days. If the trends in these new tracks continue into the early part of the week expect the Clinton campaign to launch a dramatic new ad or launch a major new assault on Senator Obama. They cannot afford to let Obama surge too far ahead, or claw his way back into contention in Pennsylvania. Will be important to watch the PA polls this week to see if Obama's sustained campaigning there along with this new national movement is making that state closer than ten points.
The Washington Posthas reported that Bill Richardson will endorse Senator Obama.
As I wrote a week ago, this long lull 'til Pennsylvania is a very dangerous time for Senator Clinton. It is giving people time to look deeper at the campaign, and what they are seeing is that Senator Obama is winning, and given the delegate math will be very hard to beat. Expect more calls for Senator Clinton to end her candidacy in the coming weeks. Adam Nagourney reviewed this emerging dynamic in the NYTimes yesterday.
The Richardson endorsement will no doubt help Senator Obama address one of the most important weaknesses of the campaign, his standing with the Hispanic community. For more on the importance of Hispanics and the Southwest, see this new article in the American Prospect by Tom Schaller, our recent essay, The 50 Year Strategy, or our new analysis of how Hispanics have voted so far in 2008.
It will be interesting to see how Obama's speech on race earlier this week played into Richardson's decision to endorse.
Update: TPM reports that Senator Clinton ended February in debt. In debt.
Has anyone else noticed that Senator Clinton sort of disapeared this week? That the only stories she got into were process ones about FL and MI, passports and attacks?
Update 2: A new essay in the Politico strongly makes the case that Obama has already won the nomination. Without a primary for the next 4 plus weeks and the Wright controversy behind us for now, the press will need something to focus on. It appears as if for the next week or so the focus will be on whether Barack Obama has already won the nomination, challenging the Clinton campaign to come up with a better rationale for why they are continuing the race. The pressure on her to end her campaign and endorse Obama is going to mount in the next few weeks ushering in a very new dynamic in the campaign.
Senator Obama will give a major address today on race. Somehow this feels like one of those defining moments in a campaign, where a candidate must rise to a powerful challenge to his or her candidacy. Successful candidates seize this moments. Failed candidates don't.
For this campaign, and this candidate this issue of race is one of the defining issues of our times. In my recent essayOn Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy I talk about all the demographic changes happening in America today, and write:
Of all these great changes the one that may be most important today is the growth of what we call the "minority" population. When I was born in 1963 the country was almost 89 percent white, 10.5 percent African-American and less than 1 percent other. The racial construct of America was, and had been for over hundreds of years, a white-black, majority-minority construct, and for most of our history had been a pernicious and exploitive one. Of course the Civil Rights Movement (particularly the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act) began to change our understanding of race around the time of my birth, but it was the Immigration Act of 1965 that changed the face of America. That act changed who would enter America, reorienting our new immigrant pool from Europe, as it had been for over 300 years, to Latin America and Asia. And America changed.
As the chart below shows (click it for a larger version), today America is 66 percent white and 33 percent "minority". While the African-American population has grown a bit, most of that increase has come from the recent historic wave of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. In my half a lifetime the "minority" population in the United States has tripled. When I was born one of out ten people walking around America were non-white. Today it is one out of three.
I think it is safe to say that America is going through the most profound demographic transformation in its long history. If current trends continue, America will be majority minority in my lifetime or soon thereafter. In a single lifetime we will have gone from a country made up largely of white Europeans to one that looks much more like the rest of the world.
If Senator Obama becomes the Democratic nominee this profound change will become something we all begin to discuss openly. Today the nation is having a big conversation about this change - whether it understands it or not - through our ongoing debate over immigration. While this debate has seen some of the most awful racist rhetoric and imagery since the days of Willie Horton, what should leave us all optimistic is that only 15 percent of the country is truly alarmed about the new wave of immigrants arriving in America. Consistently about 60 percent of the country says we need to leave all the undocumenteds here, indicating a pragmatic acceptance of the changes happening around our people and their families. Once again the uncommon wisdom of the common people appears to be prevailing here, and it is my hope, perhaps my prayer, that if Obama is the nominee American can begin to have a healthy and constructive discussion of our new population rather than what we have seen to date.
Given our nation's shameful racial history, building a national narrative, and a politics, around these powerful new demographic realities is one of the most urgent governing challenges facing our nation's leaders at the dawn of this new century. As the nation changes, and becomes more "intolerant of intolerance," there simply is no way to lead this new America, at this time, in this century, without getting this defining development of our day right.
NDN has been at the forefront these past 3 years in pushing back on manifestations of the anarchronistic - and morally unacceptable - politics of racial resentment that defined American politics in the latter half of the 20th century, the era of the Southern Strategy. And I am proud of that to no end. But now the end of the conservative ascendency in 2006, the current debate over immigration, the emergence of the Democrat's historically diverse field in 2008 is giving the country a chance to redefine our national conversation about race, to move beyond an era of racism to an era that celebrates and embraces our diversity, and lives up to that powerful American prayer of "e pluribus unum."
As I wrote in my Obama and Race essay, redefining race is a prerequisite for any post-Southern Strategy progressive majority. Moving beyond an era of racial resentment is not just the right thing to do, but as I argue it is a necessity for progressives if they hope to build a durable governing majority in this much more racially diverse - and much more tolerant - America of the 21st century. Which is why the mixed signals on race and tolerance coming from the Clinton campaign is not just morally questionable, but also dangerous for the long-term interests of the progressive movement itself.
This is the challenge and moment Senator Obama faces today. To talk about what is universal rather than specific, to embrace the inspirational principles on which this great nation was founded, to help the nation move beyond a shameful period in its history, to make it clear that he believes that as a nation, and as a world that "we are all in this together." Let us hope that he seizes this important moment and helps usher in a new and better politics for our nation.
Update: The speech was simply amazing. Read it here. We will have video links in a bit. I remain deeply proud of Barack Obama, his courage, his eloquence and his abiding faith in us and this great nation.
Today Senator Obama opened up a significant lead in the two daily tracks, Rasmussen and Gallup, hitting 50 percent in each.
Earlier this week I speculated Senator Obama might climb this high, and if he did, his case that he is winning and that Senator Clinton is losing the election would become very persuasive to those remaining superdelegates. Obama is now at 50% in the polls, has won more delegates, votes and states, and has raised more money and has a far superior organization. He appears to be, by all important measures, winning the race for the nomination.
One of the last remaining arguments the Clinton campaign has used is that she has won more important states than Senator Obama. But this argument is not persuasive on many levels. Using Chris Cillizza's analysis of the ten most important swing general states, for example, Obama comes out ahead. Of the ten in his list, Florida is unresolved, Obama has won 5 outright (CO, IA, MN, VA, WI), won the delegates in another (NV) and Senator Clinton has won 3 (NH, NM, OH). Additionally, one of her wins, NM, was essentially a tie. No matter how you cut the "important" states it is hard to argue that Senator Clinton has done better in those states that matter most.
What will the media do if Obama manages to catch and pass Senator Clinton with her last remaining area of strength, the superdelegates? Will and can that happen before the April PA primary? I still maintain these next 5 plus weeks before the April PA primary is a dangerous time for Senator Clinton, one where if the current trends continue, we could see a growing chorus for her to end her campaign.
Sunday Update: While Obama's Sat poll numbers dropped a bit, two stories today reinforce the danger that may await Clinton over these next 5 weeks. A major NYTimes look at the superdelegates reports a growing concern about the the Democratic race continuing, and a powerful desire to end it soon, In the 2nd story, Obama picks up more delegates from CA and IA, increasing his lead and adding to his momentum.