Friday, May 16, 2008

On the Cusp of Victory (with Sat. and Sun. Updates)

Barack Obama got 4 new super-delegates Thursday and one Friday (several of them important members of the California congressional delegation), 2 more from North Carolina as adjustments, and at least 7 Edwards' delegates.

According to the Obama campaign, they are now 17 delegates shy of a majority. That will happen Tuesday night, at the latest. The only real suspense is how big his Oregon victory will be, and how close will he come in Kentucky? 20 point victory in O, and getting 40% in K would be A-OK.

In Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader has endorsed Obama with much the same argument as other newspapers:

But while Clinton is an adept practitioner of politics as we know it, Obama is offering something new. He makes a convincing case that he can lead this country without sowing fear and dividing people, the cynical ploys of a political era that has run out of steam.

Obama has given voice to a widespread yearning not just for a changing of the guard but for a changing of the game. And that ability to express a people's aspirations is a mark of leadership.

Like President John F. Kennedy, another senator who electrified young people, Obama also has the substance to transform idealism into action.

The New York Times considers how Republicans fear Obama will put much of the South in play. Marc Ambinder has an interesting Atlantic article on how Obama may use the Internet as President. For instance:

What Obama seems to promise is, at its outer limits, a participatory democracy in which the opportunities for participation have been radically expanded. He proposes creating a public, Google-like database of every federal dollar spent. He aims to post every piece of non-emergency legislation online for five days before he signs it so that Americans can comment. A White House blog—also with comments—would be a near certainty. Overseeing this new apparatus would be a chief technology officer.

But the news of Thursday and Friday was Bush's flat-footed accusation of appeasement, the immediate defense by prominent Democrats, and Obama's swift response to presidential swift-boating, and pointed analysis of Bush-McCain foreign policy failures. After McCain proposed earlier in the week that he and Obama debate without moderators, I'll bet by Friday he was plenty sorry he mentioned it. It's clear already that Obama debating Democrats and Obama debating McBush will be two very different experiences.

Although Obama made a couple of appearances in Kentucky, he's not scheduled to go back before voting on Tuesday. He does have more offices on the ground there than Hillary, but it's not clear how much effort is being put into that state, where Hillary has been way ahead in the polls.

Obama will campaign in Oregon today (Saturday) and tomorrow, and campaigns in Montana on Monday. He's in Florida Wednesday, but so far nothing on his schedule for Tuesday. Where will he be when he passes that magic number, a majority of delegates in primaries and caucuses? Stay tuned.

Sat. Update: Where he will be on Tuesday evening is a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, the state where his candidacy first went before the voters, and where he won his first delegates and first victory...Saturday Obama also was endorsed by another super-delegate. He now needs 119.5 for the nomination. Not sure if that tally yet includes another delegate pick-up in Nevada where the caucus process was completed Saturday. Though Hillary Clinton claimed victory there initially, the final tally according to The Field is Obama 14 delegates, Clinton 11. The Jed Report estimates that Obama's take today is at least 3 delegates, and perhaps 2 more. Jed's projections (I don't know what they're based on) gives Obama a lock on the nomination number.

Meanwhile, there's this video--low on substance, but nicely done.

Sun. Update: Think Obama might win Oregon? He spoke Sunday before a crowd in Portland estimated at 75,000. That's about twice the size of his previous biggest crowd, in Philadelphia... Meanwhile, the Jed Report goes into more detail on why Obama has a lock on the nomination. His estimate includes conservative projections for delegates gained in the last contests.

According to this, on Sunday Obama got 2 add-on delegates from California's primary (Hillary got 3) and Obama picked up a super-delegate from Washington state.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Countdown to Ecstasy

Turn out the liights, the party's overr, at least as far as the Clinton campaign is concerned. Hillary Clinton won big in West Virginia (although Obama actually got more votes there than McCain did running unopposed in the GOPer primary), and it made no difference. Through the day Wednesday, Obama got endorsements (from 3 former SEC chairs to the womens' choice advocacy group NARAL) and another 4.5 super-delegate votes, to go with the four supers and two pledged delegates he got Tuesday.

Hillary's expected WVA win Tuesday was all but overshadowed by the shocking pick-up of a Republican congressional seat in Mississippi that the national GOPers fought hard for, by a Democrat endorsed by Obama who was attacked with TV ads trying to link him through Obama to Rev. Wright.

But Hillary's tour through the TV news shows was utterly overwhelmed by the theatrical endorsement of Obama by John Edwards, amidst a huge throng in Michigan.

Here's Ambinder's list of why the endorsement and its timing is significant (although Obama doesn't automatically get Edwards' 19 delegates, as he suggests), and TPM's brief summary. Edwards got to speak before a bigger and more enthusiastic crowd than he had during his own campaign, and he manifested his pluses and minuses: he can be incredibly eloquent, but he runs it into the ground. Obama let it be his moment, and they did look good together, so I expect he'll be as big a part of the campaign as he wants to be (but not v.p.), and part of an Obama administration.

So if you were plotting this dramatically, Hillary was given her moment, and now the rest of the week is a build-up to May 20. The Obama campaign may or may not exert itself more in Kentucky than they did in WVA--they probably will--aiming for at least a respectable 40 or 45%. But they're ahead by 20 points in Oregon, and that could give him a majority of pledged delegates (he needs just 25 according to the Obama campaign count; 28 according to NBC).

Obama needs about 133 total to achieve the nomination majority, and now it looks that it's going to be a matter of orchestrating when that will happen. I suspect it will happen June 4, the day after the last primary. But it could even happen before then, especially if it's believed that symbolically Obama should get the majority with votes from a contest, not from super-delegates. So the suspense is over, and as far as the Dem campaign goes, the next few weeks should actually be fun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Preemptive Blather

Keith posed this quiz to guest Dana Millbank: Who said this? Hillary or a Saturday Night Live satire?: "West Virginia will be a turning point in this campaign." Millbank knew right away: it was Hillary. But it was satire anyway.

Hillary will likley win the WV primary today by a huge margin, and get in the neighborhood of 19 or 20 delegates, the numbers folk say, while Obama will win 8 or 10. She'll pick up a net of maybe 12. But in the week since North Carolina/Indiana, Obama has picked up 26 total super-delegates. And it's no longer who gets more delegates, but how many Obama accumulates. His campaign figures he's 150 away from nomination. An AP story Monday said that if he continues to win supes at that pace, he'll have the nomination by the last primary on June 3 (assuming there hasn't yet been a deal for Michigan and Florida that changes the total he needs) even if he loses 3 of the last 6 contests (including WVA.)

Obama folks are bracing for one more bad day: today. Then comes May 20, when with a win in Oregon, Obama is expected to have gained the majority of delegates available from contests--which in itself will spring Nancy Pelosi and her cache of super-delegates. I haven't seen anything recently about Puerto Rico and how close he may come to Clinton's expected plurality there, but that's the last one she's expected to win.

Even the cable news gabbers hysterically trying to fill time with blather today will be hard-pressed to change the story line. I expect a lot of their nonsense to be about the general election. But they still haven't figured out what Frank Rich wrote about Sunday: this is a different election in a different year with a very different candidate. It's been pretty different so far, but they just aren't learning very fast. I don't plan to be watching.

(By the way, Jed Report shows that two polls agree that McCain's association with Bush is more harmful to him than Obama's association with Rev. Wright etc.)

Meanwhile, after appearances in West VA and Kentucky Monday, Obama is campaigning in Missouri, Michigan and Florida (where he'll also be working towards a solution to seat their delegations) as well as Oregon this weekend.