Bright Lines and End Games
When Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the #3 Democrat in the House, began speaking to reporters this week (here's one article in the New York Times) he added some important factors to the public evaluation and conduct of the Democratic campaign. He spoke for African American voters, who increasingly feel discounted in the dialogue. He told the Washington Post: "I am very concerned that if we keep talking as if it doesn't matter ... that Obama gets 92 percent of the black vote ... since he only got 35 percent of the white vote, he's in trouble. Well, Hillary Clinton only got 8 percent of black vote. [That's] like saying that 92 percent, they don't matter....I think that the way everybody has been reporting this Pennsylvania thing, it's almost saying black people don't matter. Only thing that matters is how white people respond. And that's what bothered me. I think I matter."
This is a powerful argument. The white privilege component of media coverage can't be discounted either. But in terms of super-delegates (and Clyburn is one--so far uncommitted) this message is crystal clear: ignore black voters at your electoral peril. If they feel overlooked or cheated, it could cripple the Democratic party in every election this year, and for years to come.
But that's only one of Clyburn's messages. The other is the recklessly negative campaign being run by the Clintons. On Keith Friday, Clyburn defined the bright line: keep it positive and on issues for the rest of the contests, or there will be consequences. Everybody wonders how this campaign will end--who will step up to keep the party from destroying itself? If Hillary goes on the attack again, it could very well be the African American Democratic officeholders who force the issue.
Hillary's negative campaign already lost her an important supporter: one of her fundraisers and a Puerto Rican leader, Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon. He not only has left the Hillary campaign--he's switched to Obama. Both Clyburn's statements and Guerra-Mondragon's defection are major developments, given the timing, and they will reverberate for some time.
These are movements against the solid backdrop described by Elizabeth Drew, one of the most experienced and distinguished political journalists in America: "The torrent of speculation about the end game of the Democratic nomination contest is creating a false sense of suspense – and wasting a lot of time of the multitudes who are anxious to know how this contest is going to turn out." How it's going to turn out is that Obama is going to be the nominee because he will have the most delegates when the voting is over, and (as JedReport points out) he will have won the majority of delegates available by contest (all delegates except supes and add-ons) by May 20. And the nomination is won by delegates--nothing else.
Drew also underscores the importance of what Clyburn said in 2 of the 3 reasons she cites as why the supes will go to Obama: a. Hillary is so polarizing that down-ticket Dems will have little chance of picking up Indies and Republicans, b. to deny Obama the nomination if he is ahead would alienate African American voters for generations, and would lose young voters, Is and Rs who switched parties; and c: Because the black vote can make the decisive difference in numerous congressional districts, discarding Obama could cost the Democrats numerous seats."
These delegates aren't worried about the PA results, she writes, because Obama attracts the I's and R's that Hillary won't, while retaining most of the Democratic base, which is her strength.
I'd go further than that: Hillary won among the non-black Democratic base in states where she had the muscle of the political establishment: the governor and especially the mayors. Without the mayor of Los Angeles, she would have lost California. Without the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, she might well have lost PA. (I don't think she won PA anyway--the memory of Bill did.) With that kind of muscle behind Obama, plus the constituencies he brings to the election, the Democrats could win all across the country--and Democratic officeholders and political operatives know it.
There have been rumors since before Texas that a large group of supers are ready to endorse Obama en masse. He's been getting a slow but steady succession of them, but if he wins North Carolina big and comes close or wins Indiana, it would make sense that it will finally happen then.
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