Clinton's tenacity may help the Democrats
Sen. Clinton has opted to keep going, playing for time and hoping someone or something comes along to transform the contest.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Dates to keep in mindOn May 20, after the Kentucky and Oregon primaries, Barack Obama almost surely will have an absolute majority of the pledged delegates, not counting the disputed contests in Michigan and Florida. His aides have indicated he might declare victory at that point.
On May 31, a Democratic National Committee panel will address the Michigan and Florida situations, which Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign talks about constantly. A resolution is likely, but it won't wipe out Obama's pledged-delegate lead, now at 162, according to The Associated Press.
On June 3, South Dakota and Montana will conduct the final primaries, and undeclared superdelegates who will decide the nomination will be expected to declare quickly. Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's campaign chairman, has acknowledged that, saying he does not see the battle going to the convention in August.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — For the past few months, the story of the Democratic race has been Barack Obama, his victories, his setbacks, his associations and his words.
The focus now is on Hillary Rodham Clinton and how she handles the final stages of her quest for her party's presidential nomination.
Confronted by arithmetic that borders on the impossible, Clinton has opted to keep going, playing for time and hoping someone or something comes along to transform the contest.
And no one, it seems, has any intention of trying to stop her, so long as she doesn't do anything to damage Obama's prospects as the party's likely standard-bearer, which she hasn't since Tuesday's primaries in North Carolina and Indiana.
Rep. Jason Altmire, who represents a district outside Pittsburgh, voiced the views of many congressional Democrats by saying Clinton has "earned the right to continue to campaign to see if she can close the gap."
The sentiment among some prominent Democrats goes beyond that.
They have come to believe that Clinton's staying in the race — if only through the end of the primaries — may be the preferred scenario for party unity, assuming everyone stays on their best behavior.
"Her supporters would take it very badly if they felt she were being unfairly forced out by Nancy Pelosi or Al Gore or other party elders," said Steve Murphy, a Democratic strategist who worked on the presidential campaign of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Through their silence, Obama and his surrogates have expressed their concurrence, making no move to push out the woman who once was considered her party's inevitable nominee.
In interviews last week, the Illinois senator described her with such words as "tireless," "smart, "capable" and "formidable" and expressed no impatience with her continued presence in the race. He said she'd have to be on anyone's short list as a would-be running mate, and resisted attempts to describe himself as the presumptive nominee.
Clinton, after her disappointing showings Tuesday, has stopped attacking Obama, although she created a stir when she told USA Today that his support among "white Americans is weakening again."
In her speeches, she has limited herself to laying out her proposals and making the case to keep going.
"There have been some folks who have been arguing that we should stop voting," Clinton told a crowd in Sioux Falls, S.D., last week, recalling earlier moments in the race when she seemed on the verge of defeat. "I think the more democracy we have, the better."
She has continued, too, to assert that she has shown herself to be the stronger candidate against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.
At one stop, she listed the key states in which she has won primaries, naming Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arkansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Michigan and Florida.
"I'm winning Catholic voters and Hispanic voters and blue-collar workers and seniors, the kind of people Senator McCain will be fighting for in the general election," she said in Charleston, W.Va.
Clinton's aides have acknowledged talk within her inner circle about exit strategies but say a decision on whether to drop out will be made solely by the candidate and her husband. Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson, said she believes she still can win.
"Among her core supporters, it's as gung-ho as it's ever been," said Philadelphia lawyer Alan Kessler, a Clinton fundraiser. "We're all in this to see how it plays out."
Another prominent Clinton backer, Philadelphia lawyer Mark Aronchick, said her continued candidacy is good for the party, even if she can't convince the superdelegates that she'd be the stronger nominee. Stopping the process now, he said, might feed a sense that her candidacy has been slighted.
"We're talking about identity politics on both sides," Aronchick said, "and the identity politics on the Clinton side among women — the passion, the zeal, the commitment, the sense of history, the sense of a movement — hasn't gotten as much attention and respect as it deserves, as she deserves. ...
"There's no reason not to want to have all the results, all of the facts, for the superdelegates to consider," he said. "There's plenty of time to come together."
How long Clinton stays at it will depend on several factors, including her ability to fund her campaign, either through contributions or her personal resources, and to keep the steady drip of superdelegates to Obama from becoming a flood.
In addition, there's the question of how long she can keep going in the face of a broad consensus that the game has ended. An expected victory for her in West Virginia on Tuesday might lift her spirits, if they need lifting.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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