Static Dynamics: The Irony of the End

The great irony of last night’s primaries is that while they may be game changers, from one point to the next, little has changed. If we were to look at polling averages in both Indiana and North Carolina, and then look at the voting totals that we actually ended up with, I think the general consensus would be something to the effect of, “I saw that coming.”

Of course, what changes so much is the two weeks that have happened in between then and now.

Two weeks ago, Indiana was a toss up, and North Carolina looked to be firmly in Obama’s corner by ten to twenty points, but as I say, the last two weeks did not occur in a vacuum.

For the record, Hillary enjoyed a relatively scandal free time, one in which the last major controversy she had to face was the Bosnia debacle that had ceased to dominate news headlines weeks earlier. Indeed, news headlines were relatively kind Mrs. Clinton, and she had dominated and directed the narrative of the media, focusing on Obama’s elitism, while doing her damnedest to cement her in touch bona fides.

And she pandered.

Now, this is not meant as criticism, what it is meant as is a realistic look at how the past two weeks informs the results we have tonight. By all rights, Clinton has had a lot going for her, and this is discounting what we saw going on in Team Obama’s camp. While the Gas Tax Holiday may have been panned by just about every economist worth his salt, and was rejected even by Clinton’s own supporters in what I hesitantly call the intelligentsia, there had been some murmurs that the proposal still polled well, and allowed Clinton to don a veneer of populist credibility.

By contrast, let’s look at the two weeks that Obama had. Not quite so great; Jeremiah Wright sucked up nearly a full week of oppressive news coverage, and outside of that he was under attack from both sides, Clinton’s and McCain’s. McCain, for his part, has already focused almost totally on Obama when he does bother to go after whomever his Democratic rival may be.

The ultimate point is that the groundwork was there for Hillary to do at least something that would resemble what she really needed to do; blow Obama out in both states. Realistically, Clinton needed major earth shattering victories in both Indiana and North Carolina, but to keep the media singing her tune and keep it reporting that the Democratic nomination is still up for grabs, she needed to do only two things; lose in North Carolina by only single digits, and win in Indiana by an appreciable margin.

And, as I say, things were going her way. Polling data had shown Clinton picking up a comfortable lead in Indiana while North Carolina was starting to look like a squeaker for Obama. Everything was starting to go her way, and perhaps, as she said of Pennsylvania, the tide truly was turning.

When we all look back upon this night, and we will, it will be remembered for Indiana. It will be remembered for North Carolina rapidly getting called for Obama, pointing to a blowout that had once been thought possible, and devolved over a fortnight to a long shot. And it will be remembered for the way Indiana started out so well for Clinton when polling places began to report, and a lead that was, at its largest, eighteen points, had dwindled down to a mere two point victory.

In the end, in Indiana, Clinton would pick up only about four pledged delegates, and a paltry twenty thousand votes on the popular vote totals. Thus, Indiana was little more than a symbolic win, and all things considered, symbolism doesn’t go very far.

By contrast, in North Carolina Obama picked up nearly 250K on the popular vote, and close to twenty pledged delegates. Andrew Sullivan gives this victory the right weight; these pick ups mean that even if Clinton were to get the Michigan and Florida delegations seated as is (a move that would be seen by many as outright cheating, particulary when it comes to Michigan), she would still not be able to overcome Obama’s pledged delegate and popular vote totals.

That is a profound statement, one that is even further punctuated when a look at the exit polling data shows that Obama was able to deliver tonight based upon cutting into what should have been Clinton friendly demographics.

After nearly a month and a half of getting beat up from the press and political opponents, Obama managed to still come out the victor on election day. Jeralyn and Taylor Marsh are wrong; a win is not just a win. Which has been a key dynamic of the race so far; this concept that a win is a win is a win, which is not true. Unlike the Republican primaries, unlike the electoral college, the Democratic primary system is about proportional victories, and since suffering a string of blowouts in February, Clinton has failed in just about every state to do what she needed to do.

But that’s not how the media has reported things. At least until now. Chalk it up to the fact that last night marked the last major yield of votes and delegates, or chalk it up to the down to the minute nailbiter in Indiana, what will prove to be the most significant aspect of last night’s primaries will be that the media has finally decided to report upon the mathematics in a realistic manner.

At this point, Hillary Clinton’s arguments have all been shot down. Florida and Michigan will no longer save her, she has no hope of winning the pledged delegate lead, and she has no hope of winning the popular vote. By contrast, Obama has proven that even when his campaign is getting kicked around and beaten with baseball bats, he can still perform, and he can still come up with a meaningful as opposed to a symbolic win.

The big irony of tonight is that while I thought that this wouldn’t be a game changer, it truly has been, and it has been in Obama’s favor. This is perhaps why the Clinton campaign has canceled all of its appearances today.

Reality has perhaps fallen upon everyone, including the Clintons.

I think it still premature to assume that Clinton is going to drop out, but it has to be understood that the only hope she has of winning the Democratic nomination at this point is for Obama to screw up, a factor that is itself problematic. With a dynamic such as that, what the party needs is not someone ready to capitalize off of misadventure, but instead a unified structure that pulls together to defend and protect itself.

Which is the frame of mind I have adopted as I think of what is to come next, and what should come next. Will Hillary drop out? As Josh Marshall implies, if she truly has cleared the docket for today, that would indeed be a strong signal that an announcement is coming. But it’s not a guarantee.

Should she drop out? I don’t know. One thing is clear, if her campaign strategy from here on out is to continue to attack Obama or undermine his message, then yes, she should. This because we have now reached a new phase of the Democratic nomination race wherein Obama is now not just the frontrunner, but the presumptive nominee.

On the other hand, there is a way for her to remain in the race, and not do herself, her party, and the eventual nominee harm, and that would be to go 100% against McCain. Stay in the race, ignore Obama, and let’s have  instead of a two on one gang up on Obama, a two on one gang up on McCain. Under these conditions, I would be more than happy for Mrs. Clinton to remain in the race, it would give the voters in the remaining states a sense that they are contributing, and hopefully create more excitement for the eventual nominee, and it would double the intensity of attacks on McCain, and hopefully, for the first time since McCain looked to be a doomed candidate late last year, actually force the media to put him in the hotseat.

But barring that, the race is over. Clinton is free to choose when to do this, but her campaign should be suspended with the understanding that should something actually happen to Obama that makes him thoroughly unelectable, she would obviously be the next in succession to receive the nomination.

Final analysis of the primaries that have transpired last night: Obama won the nomination, again (I am of the mind that he won it back at the end of February, and for all intents and purposes, thanks to the math, he did), and now the media is going to report it that way as well.

Whether Clinton chooses to hang on or not, now is the time that we have to start the healing and prepare ourselves for what the Republicans have to throw at us.

4 Responses to “Static Dynamics: The Irony of the End”

  1. DrGail says:

    I understand that Hillary has now added some campaign stops to her schedule for today. Somehow, I just knew it wouldn’t be that easy!

    However, you’re right about the shift in the media. Listening to the news this morning, the newsreaders and the reporters were finally dealing in reality — her campaign at this point is a total long shot, she has no realistic way to win it, if she doesn’t drop out right away she should at least change the character of her approach and stop being so divisive.

  2. Jeff Sternefeld says:

    This will go to the convention. What happened to Florida and Michigan. The Obama news network(CNN) says that these two states should be ignored. What is Hussain afraid of. I am a lifelong Dem that worked for Gene McCarthy and help form the NDC in New York. I can not bring myself to vote for Hussain and will vote for McCain as at least 30-35% of the Clinton Dems will do. Let the party work this out. Obama can not win. He has spun a tale that the 18-20 year olds have bought into. He offers nothing except polarazation(sic)

  3. Judy says:

    I want Hillary. Not only because she is the best one for the job at this point in time. Not only because she has experience as a leader. But because I’m a grandmother with 11 grandchildren. I really believe this is a critical election, and the outcome will determine not only my American History entry, but my children and grandchildren’s future. I do have faith, hope and love. I do believe GOD still rules in the affairs of men. That He sets up kings and takes down kings. I hope that people will pray about their vote. It could matter more than you know.

  4. tas says:

    Jeff — The candidates agreed before this race started not to campaign in Florida and Michigan. Both states were warned to not move up their primaries but they did anyways. You can’t change the rules now.

    Furthermore, we all know that Hillary has been a national figure for going on two decades now. Obama hasn’t. You can’t take the vote totals from states that neither candidate has campaigned in and claim it’s a victory for Hillary because of course her vote total will be more — she’s more well known. Candidates have to campaign in states first before a vote happens — that’s fair.

    And did you know that Hussein is a common muslim name? And did you know that Obama had a muslim father but he himself is not a muslim? Regardless, did you know that most muslims are pretty friendly people? Hmm?

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