ENPR: Clinton Campaign Shows Signs of Panic


  1. The impressive Barack Obama win in Wisconsin cut off another possibility for a Hillary Clinton comeback. That means Clinton goes into March 4, where she must win both Texas and Ohio with zero momentum. Time is running out, and signs of panic increase in the Clinton campaign — as characterized by her odd charges of plagiarism by Obama.
  2. It should be borne in mind that Democrats are determined to enter the Denver convention late in August with the nominee decided. That means that, to have any chance, Clinton will have to regain momentum — not any easy task with Obama flying high.
  3. With little notice and little effort, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) trounced former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in yesterday’s Wisconsin Republican primary. It was perhaps indicative of how serious Huckabee’s campaign is that he was in the Cayman Islands Sunday for a paid political speech two days before the Wisconsin primary.
  4. Congress recessed without renewing authority for eavesdropping because Democrats bowed to trial lawyers’ demands not to grant retroactive immunity from lawsuits for phone companies that helped U.S. intelligence agencies. It shows greater Democratic reliance on contributions from trial lawyers than their vulnerability on the national security issue.
  5. House Republicans showed how much they really care about losing their fiscal responsibility brand when they rejected Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), the leading crusader against earmarks, for a vacancy on the House Appropriations Committee. They picked Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), a former House staffer and a consistent supporter of earmarks. Flake’s goose was cooked earlier when the House Republican Conference did not unilaterally impose a moratorium on earmarks.

Democratic Presidential

Yesterday’s Primaries: Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) carried the Wisconsin primary and Hawaii caucus, extending his winning streak to 10 straight states.

  1. Obama carried Wisconsin by an impressive 58 percent to 41 percent. His sizable liberal base in Madison was part of his margin, but he clearly reached outside this base. Increasingly, Obama is winning all sorts of Democrats, while Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) is winning mostly whites over 55 years old.
  2. Exit polls in Wisconsin indicated that two-thirds of Democrats thought Obama was a better general election candidate than Clinton. This is a huge factor for Obama because it strikes directly at the heart of what was Clinton’s chief advantage early on. Clinton has been working hard to deflate this idea, painting Obama as a liability.
  3. The fuss over plagiarism certainly did not make the Clinton campaign look good, but it could have struck an indirect hit for them. The actual charges of plagiarism were petty, but they highlighted how much of Obama’s candidacy is based on his rhetoric and his image, and how little his support is based on ideas and issues.
  4. Obama’s huge win in Hawaii was also expected. The win there extended his streak to 10 states.

Going Forward: Clinton’s hope for nomination rests on the three big remaining states: Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

  1. Super-delegates could decide this race, though probably this spring, rather than in on the convention floor.
  2. Momentum and perception of success are what make Obama the favorite now, but those two factors could save Clinton in the end. She is not likely to catch Obama on pledged delegates, but if she wins the late states — the big ones — she can use the momentum and the positive coverage to convince super-delegates to come her way.
  3. Recent Texas polls show Clinton ahead, with her lead ranging from two points to 16 points. Ohio polls also favor Clinton. Both Ohio and Pennsylvania have Clinton-friendly demographics, with older electorates and working class pockets.

Delegates: In the complex, murky art of delegate counting, this much is clear: Obama has a slim lead but will need super-delegate help to win the nomination.

  1. Counting delegates before the convention is not a science that allows for perfect precision, which is why different news organizations have different counts. Not only do the 795 super-delegates (there had been 796, but the death of California Rep. Tom Lantos has reduced that number by one) have the prerogative to change their minds at any moment, but it also often takes some guesswork to determine how many pledged delegates a candidate has won. Finally, pledged delegates are not pledged forever.
  2. Among pledged delegates, Obama leads with about 1,150 (53 percent of those "awarded" so far) to Clinton’s approximately 1,000 (46 percent). This reflects his success in the primaries. Because some states haven’t certified their votes — and because many delegates are awarded by congressional district where a small swing in vote totals can swing a delegate — these counts are imprecise and subject to change. The errors found in New York’s unofficial vote count suggests the official count could swing a handful of delegates in either direction.
  3. It will be difficult for Clinton to overcome Obama’s pledged-delegate lead. She would need to win about 58 percent of the remaining pledged delegates, after winning about 46 percent so far. That means she will need to do 26 percent better from here on out than she has done so far. Strong wins in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, however, could put her on the right track.
  4. Clinton’s lead among super-delegates (270 to 161, according to the Associated Press) is based on polls conducted by news services. Every Democratic congressman, senator, and governor is a super-delegate, plus a few hundred other party officials and activists. There are many super-delegate slots that have not yet been filled by state parties. Some super-delegates who have sided with one candidate have since switched or become neutral. Representatives David Scott (D-Ga.) and John Lewis (D.-Ga.), African-Americans who both endorsed Clinton, say they may side with their constituencies and vote for Obama at the convention.
  5. About 352 super-delegates are publicly undecided. Many of them are waiting to see how the popular vote and pledged-delegate count stand when the primaries finish up, in order to ensure a "democratic" outcome.
  6. The other battleground regards the penalized states: Florida and Michigan. The Democratic National Committee stripped these two of all their delegates because they held their primaries in January, violating party rules. All candidates pledged not campaign in these states, but Clinton blurred the line. She held fundraisers in Florida that looked like campaign stops, and unlike her rivals, she did not pull her name from the Michigan ballot. Accordingly, she won both states and is now lobbying to have the delegates reinstated, with appeals to racial fairness (both states have high black populations). If the delegates were added, Clinton would pull nearly even in pledged delegates, and take the overall lead.
  7. Finally, "pledged delegates" are not totally "pledged." DNC rules allow pledged delegates to cast their votes as their "conscience" calls. Recent media accounts suggested both campaigns could lobby to win over the other’s pledged delegates.
  8. The Democratic nightmare scenario would be for a slim Obama lead in pledged delegates, putting the race in the hands of super-delegates, and resting the nomination on the question of Florida and Michigan, where any course of action is problematic.

Remaining Democratic Caucuses and Primaries

Delegates Tied to Contest
By District
March 4, 2008
Texas 127 0 127*
Ohio 141 49 92
Rhode Island 21 8 13
Vermont 15 15 n/a
March 8, 2008
Wyoming 7 7 n/a
March 10, 2008
Mississippi 33 11 22
April 22, 2008
Pennsylvania 158 55 103
May 6, 2008
North Carolina 115 38 77
Indiana 72 25 47
May 13, 2008
West Virginia 28 10 18
May 20, 2008
Oregon 52 18 34
Kentucky 51 17 34
June 3, 2008
Montana 16 6 10†
South Dakota 15 15 n/a
June 7, 2008
Puerto Rico 55 19 36‡

* Texas allocates its district delegates by state senate district (there are 34) rather than by congressional district.

† Montana, which has only one congressional district, allocates 5 district delegates to the western portion of the state and 5 to the eastern portion.

‡ Puerto Rico, which has no congressional districts, divides its district delegates among its 8 senate districts.

House 2008

Kentucky-2: The seat has been open for only a few weeks, and already we’ve seen intrigue, deception, reversals, and apologies. This is another seat for Republicans to defend.

Rep. Ron Lewis (R) announced his retirement just before the deadline for candidates to file. His former chief of staff, Daniel London (R) immediately filed his papers to run. This appeared to be an attempt by Lewis to pick his successor outside the GOP machine run by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) acted quickly enough and got their candidate, State Sen. Brett Guthrie (R), into the race. When details emerged, painting Lewis and London in an unfavorable light, London dropped out, rather than run against the party establishment.

Guthrie represents Bowling Green in the Southern end of the district, and as a former military man, he hopes to pull in support in the Northeast corner, around Ft. Knox. The early intrigue has faded away, and Guthrie has broad backing. On top of the backing of the NRCC and McConnell, Guthrie has inherited Lewis’s fundraising apparatus.

The Northwest corner of the district, around Owensboro, is home to the two Democratic candidates, State Sen. David Boswell (D) and David County Judge-Executive Reid Haire (D).

The district leans Republican, but Democrats can win here. Bush pulled in 65 percent here in 2004, but Lewis won re-election in 2006 with only 55 percent. Last year, Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) lost every county in the district. If Guthrie runs a strong campaign, he should win. Leaning Republican Retention.