Carter Pseudo Endorses Obama

Interesting question; who is the de facto leader of the Democratic party right now?

It’s a tricky question. Normally, the natural answer would be Bill Clinton, having been the most recent Democratic president. But being married to one of the Democratic candidates kind of puts a damper on his objectivity. Theoretically that too could be overcome, I suppose, had he even attempted to maintain a veneer of neutrality, or even decency, but then, well, we all know how that turned out.

Then things get fuzzier. Kerry? The last Democratic nominee?

When it comes to John Kerry, I think what killed his chances at being the party’s leader was losing to George W. Bush. Not that there’s shame in that, really. I mean, yeah, we’re talking about the Democratic party at perhaps its most unified, and Bush did eventually become among the most hated presidents in history, but if you remember, back in 2004 Bush was hovering around that fifty percent approval mark which would be unheard of today. Also, the Republican Attack Machine slaughtered Kerry with the MSM as its primary accomplice.

Still, I tend to get the feeling from time to time that a lot of folks in the party still blame Kerry for blowing it. And while I see both sides of the story, Kerry’s missteps and flaws, Team Bush’s gifted assassination of Kerry’s character, it seems as though the former Democratic presidential nominee is out of the running.

So too would it seem Al Gore, though for different reasons. It’s not as though people don’t want him around, they do. Oh, they most assuredly do, and if he wanted to take up the mantle of party leader, I’m sure there would be plenty of people ready to adorn him with it. But my gut tells me that he’s really just not all that interested. Indeed, when we look at the Al Gore of today, the impression one gets is that he not only no longer wants to be president, but he’s kind of over the political scene completely. After all, he has his activism both on information dissemination and climate change, and he has the freedom to work on those issues unfettered.

Pelosi and Reid?

Yeah, moving on.

Which brings us to Jimmy Carter, the other Democratic president still kicking about. President Carter is something of a mixed bag, though.

On the negative side, his presidency is not viewed favorably, not even by many Democrats. On the other hand, his humanitarian efforts worldwide have been lauded by many, gaining him the awkward role of bad president, great humanitarian.

Now, the reason why I just went through this whole exercise was to kind of put into context, or at least create a kind of framework of perspective when we discuss the fact that Jimmy Carter has come just about as close to endorsing Obama for the Democratic nominee as one could get without actually doing so.

There are two interesting aspects to this story. To me, the first comes from the inside baseball teasers that Carter alludes to; specifically the mentality of a lot of the undeclared Super Delegates. Without going into great detail, Carter sort of confirms that while the Clinton campaign has gone to great lengths to establish a foundation for alternative means for her to win the nomination, the Super Delegates whom she would have to rely upon largely aren’t buying it.

If the numbers of Super Delegates that Carter is talking about are significant enough, that would prove to be the biggest blow to Clintons candidacy yet. Keep in mind, while Clinton continues to lead in the Super Delegate count, based upon her pledged delegate deficit, she would have to receive a grossly disproportionately greater share of the remaining pool in order to win the nomination. Think about this: with less than three hundred Super Delegates left in the field, she would need fully half of them to merely overcome Obama’s pledged delegate lead, and this is assuming that Obama doesn’t widen that gap in the remaining primaries (which he is likely to do as the biggest of the remaining states to vote, North Carolina, still appears to be firmly in his favor). She then has to pull in enough Super Delegates from the remaining half to push her over the finish line.

To put it a slightly different way, using CNN’s current delegate totals, right now if all of the unpledged Super Delegates were to shift over to Obama’s camp, that would be enough to put him over the line. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is still a smidge over a hundred delegates short of being in that “red zone” where a total shift of Super Delegates could put her over the finish line.

As more states carry on, Obama will, of course, need fewer and fewer Super Delegates to put this thing out of its misery.

Beyond the delegate math, though, there are also symbolic aspects to this as well. To Obama’s discredit, Carter’s non-endorsement endorsement could be used to link Carter’s failures to Obama. This could be done any number of ways, both inside the party and out. For those outside the party, there’s not much I can say, but for those inside the party; say what you will about the man, he did get elected.

But to Obama’s credit, this seems to be as close to an endorsement as he’s going to get from the man who is as close to being the party’s de facto leader as we can surmise at this point, the psychological impact of which, on the Clinton campaign, on the remaining Super Delegates, etc. could be significant.

But this also points to another interesting situation that began early last year before all the animosity of this primary had a chance to manifest itself.

What was supposed to be Clinton’s lock on the nomination was her institutional support, and her pull among the Super Delegates. This was why she started off with such a huge number to begin with; her party power enabled her to come out of the gates with a considerable amount of Super Delegate support.

But since then, her Super Delegate “firewall” slowly eroded. Indeed, since Ohio Obama has picked up 40 Super Delegates to Clinton’s 9. While numbers are somewhat fuzzy, Obama has even managed to pick up more Super Delegates after the “crushing” defeat he suffered in Pennsylvania.

Carter just sort of adds on to the adding on in this instance.

So we are where we’ve always been. Yeah, the last month and a half may have really made things appear to be a clincher, but when it gets right down to it, not much has changed. And, strangely enough, the Super Delegates, Carter included, seem to know this even if the media can’t get it through their heads.

(edited by DrGail)

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