Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Last Day of the Democratic Primaries Live Blog

1:52am (Final Thoughts): Sorry about the somewhat limited blogging tonight. There was a lot going on (including storms in the area) and I had a hard time getting to the computer as much as I would've liked.

It looks like Clinton will take a 9-6 delegate advantage from South Dakota and Obama will likely get a 9-7 split in Montana. That will give her a 16-15 win on the evening with pledged delegates. Unfortunately for her, Obama picked up about 60 superdelegate votes today while Clinton lost a few. So, Obama passed the 2,118 bar with plenty of room to spare.

I have to say that even though we were told all day that she would not concede, Clinton's speech still struck me as a bit odd given the context. To simply pretend as though the networks weren't all naming Obama the nominee was strange, and asking her supporters to go to her website and let her know what they want her to do seemed to be firing up the troops rather than asking them to stand down.

In the meantime, Obama's speech contrasted quite favorably with those delivered by Clinton and Obama. He began in a very gracious way, which was a bit different from Clinton's speech, and the energy of the event just overpowered McCain's speech earlier in the evening. All in all, it seemed to be an effective pivot to the general election.

I've been trying to figure out the VP situation for quite a while and am still not entirely sure what to think. In my mind, the way this day panned out seemed to make it much less likely that Obama would offer the position to her. The question is whether there are enough superdelegates who have already endorsed Obama who would push him to take her on the ticket. If that happens, then things could certainly get a bit messy and perhaps this is what the Clinton campaign is trying to . But I'd guess that most of the superdelegates don't want any part in pushing something like this.

So, where do we go from here? The Obama campaign will now be trying to move as quickly as possible to leave the primary campaign far behind. There are lots of interesting questions that we will likely be getting answers to soon. The first, of course, is when and where will Clinton concede and will there be a big joint appearance to symbolize the unity? Will Clinton's superdelegates begin flipping their endorsements to Obama en masse even before she officially concedes? And how hard will Clinton work for the Obama campaign once she does accept him as the nominee?

Will Obama get a "bump" in the polls from having wrapped up the nomination?

And, finally, the other big question that doesn't have to do with selecting a running mate is when will the Obama campaign announce that they intend to forego public financing in the general election? And, relatedly, what is the over/under on the amount of money Obama will raise for the general election (assuming he does forego public financing)?

In some ways it is hard to imagine that this nomination race went on for 5 months from Iowa until today. This is truly unique in the modern era of presidential nomination politics (and it will provide a lot of fodder for the next edition of my book, which, unfortunately, means a lot of work in the revisions for me). Yet, in other ways it really makes a lot of sense that this went on so long. You knew when Obama was raising tons of money last summer that this nomination race could go on for quite a while; after all, how else was he going to spend all that money? But people always expected that Obama would be the one chasing Clinton, not the other way around. The bottom line is that the Obama campaign out-maneuvered the Clinton campaign throughout. They raised more money, energized citizens who had previously eschewed politics, built a superior grassroots organization, had a superior online presence, and, most importantly, they understood the importance of running up big margins in caucus states and having an organization to compete after Super Tuesday. In fact, that last point is just it. When they were raising all that money in 2007, they knew that they could use it to extend the campaign into February and beyond and that was their plan all along. The Clinton campaign wasn't ready for that and, as a result, even though it went on until June, this race was won by Obama in February.

So, does his campaign have anything left for an encore in the general election? We have the next five months to find out.

With all the "Clinton on the ticket" talk tonight, it seems worth asking how many votes Obama would pick up by not picking her? We are no longer in a primary campaign and the playing field has changed now. How many independents and Republicans are out there who might vote Obama unless he takes Clinton as a running mate?

Here are the Clinton talking points distributed to surrogates tonight. These are not the talking points of a candidate who is conceding. In the meantime, Obama is going to earn more popular votes tonight than Clinton. Her net in South Dakota is somewhere between 10 and 12k, whereas he already has a 15k lead over her in Montana with only 25% in.

Rendell, one of the biggest Clinton supporters, is on MSNBC saying that Obama can definitely carry Pennsylvania without Clinton. However, he does think it would be a good ticket and that it would help in New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

I'm not quite digging the John King replacement on CNN...not nearly as great with the futuristic big board as King is. After some digging, we've figured out that King and Dana Bash are evidently on their honeymoon (if they announced this earlier on CNN, I missed it).

The CNN crowd is noting that with the Clinton campaign basically demanding a spot on the ticket, they have probably hurt her chances of getting it. I agree, it seems now that he really can't choose her, because it would make him look weak and the choice would seem far too forced and unnatural.

11:04pm: In her speech, Clinton asked the 18 million people who voted for her to go to HillaryClinton.com to tell her what she should do now. For what it's worth, one friend of mine who voted for Clinton said she wants to go to the website and tell her, "I'm one of the 18 million, and I want out." It is going to be very interesting to see how this progresses in the next several days.

The Montana exit polls show a 56-39% breakdown in favor of Obama.

In case it wasn't clear from her speech that Clinton wants to be on the ticket, there is this.

10:02pm: The networks call Montana for Obama on the hour. And that's all we have left folks. No more states, no more territories, just the official casting of votes in Denver in August. I'll update the delegate tracker in a few minutes.

MSNBC has called South Dakota for Clinton.

The early tabulations of South Dakota exit polls indicate a 54-46% edge for Clinton. In most cases, early exit poll tabulations for Clinton have held up throughout the night, though Indiana was one case where her early exit poll lead shrunk throughout the night.

According to MSNBC, Barack Obama has enough delegates to put him over the top. The announcement steps on the end of McCain's speech. Obviously this is a historic moment in so many ways. I'm not sure we'll ever see anything like the campaign that we witnessed over the past 5 months.

8:00pm: MSNBC did not add any delegates to Obama's count between 7 and 8pm. Is that because everyone's at dinner or has the Obama campaign told everyone to stop endorsing so that he can win it when they call Montana? I wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter.

Here is some useful information about the large number of House and Senate primaries happening today.

The superdelegate endorsements are coming so fast now that I'm updating by the hour at this point. The only real question remaining is whether Obama will go over before the networks are able to call either state. The other questions is what these speeches will look like tonight. Should be VERY interesting to watch.

5:25pm: There is no doubt about it now. Obama WILL cross the threshold of 2,118 tonight. MSNBC now says he is 19.5 short. Between South Dakota and Montana's elected delegates and the five Montana delegates that have committed to voting for the winner of that primary, he should pick up at least that many delegates tonight.

5:15pm: I've updated the delegate totals, though things are moving so quickly that I'm having a hard time keeping up.

Lots of talk online and on the networks about the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket, including some suggestion that Clinton herself has told superdelegates she would serve if asked. I was looking at Survey USA's VP poll tests last night and was interested to find (a) that they didn't bother testing an Obama-Clinton ticket and (b) Edwards seems to help Obama in nearly every state they've polled.

Several more superdelegate endorsements in the last two hours. Obama is probably about 7 or 8 away from the number he needs to allow himself to go over the top when the polls close tonight. By the way, MSNBC announced that Jimmy Carter will endorse Obama tonight.

2:05pm: The Associated Press is evidently calling the race based on "new math," to paraphrase Ben Smith at the Politico.

Just to give you a graphical idea of how Obama piles up superdelegates throughout the day, I give you this chart that I'll continue to update every couple of hours based on the MSNBC count.

I figured I'd make this an all-day running blog since we may very well see Obama win more delegates before the polls close than he wins after. As expected, it seems as though his campaign is trying to bring in as many superdelegates as possible to make sure he can clinch with delegates elected in today's primaries. So far, depending on which count you look at, Obama is either 33.5 or 34 delegates away from 2,118. He will win AT LEAST 13 delegates tonight* (most likely a few more than that) meaning that, to be safe, he needs at least 20 more superdelegate votes in the bank before tonight.

*Five Montana superdelegates are set to endorse the primary's winner as soon as that is announced. Thus, assuming he wins in Montana, he will get at least 13 delegates from that pick-up. Thus, assuming he thinks that Montana is in the bag, he really only needs to pick up about 15 more superdelegates today to be safe.

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