Monday, June 2, 2008

Triple Witching Weekend

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 231

The weekend just past will likely go down as a significant two days in this cycle's Democratic presidential nominating process, with three events combining to put their stamp on the color and shape of things as we near the end of the race.

First and foremost, there was the DNC Rules Committee meeting on Saturday. I don't have a verbatim transcript of the proceedings, but here is the gist, based on hand-written notes I made of key portions of the committee's televised deliberations:
"Shut up!"
"No, you shut up!"
"Make me!"
"Maybe I will! Gosh!"

Such elevated discourse aside, the substantive outcome of the meeting was that the delegate total needed to nominate has risen from 2026 to 2118, based on the seating arrangements for the Michigan and Florida delegations agreed to by the committee. The result was that Barack Obama's number of remaining delegates needed to nominate increased to 66, while Hillary Clinton's margin narrowed tantalizingly from "stupendously out of reach" to "outlandishly remote."

Incidentally, the committee vote on Michigan, by far the more contentious issue on the table, was 19-8; thirteen members of the committee had already publicly pledged support for Hillary Clinton, and, as the vote shows, they failed to keep their own block in line to vote for their proposal to deny any delegates to Barack Obama. Further proof, if any is needed, that, bravado aside, the fact that the nomination has slipped through Clinton's fingers is starting to register even on some of her most committed (and influential) supporters.

A maxim attributed to Otto von Bismarck maintains that there are two things you never want to allow people to see being made: laws and sausages. I think the Rules Committee meeting makes a powerful case for adding a third item to that list.

The second major event was Puerto Rico's primary, which Hillary Clinton won big. How big? So big that Barack Obama started the day needing 66 delegates to secure the nomination and ended it needing just 47. This result caused Hillary Clinton to proclaim, in an email to supporters, "Today in Puerto Rico, the voters spoke with a powerful voice to say that this race is not over yet."

Not over yet. But soon. As in, probably later this week. And no, this isn't the pundocracy speaking: it's Clinton's National Co-Chair (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack, who told the Associated Press yesterday, "It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee. After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."

Last, but by no means least, Saturday marked the end of the second quarter fundraising period for the campaigns. Neither Clinton nor Obama have released their fundraising totals for this latest period quite yet, but those numbers will drive the outcome of this final stage of the race perhaps more forcefully than either the Rules Committee or the Puerto Rico primary. But we'll have to stay tuned for that.

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