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Posted by on Jun 4, 2008 in Politics | 8 comments

Short-Circuiting Clinton? Pelosi, Reid, Dean Give Superdelegates Friday Decision Deadline

Have three of the Democratic party’s top leaders named Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean decided they’ve had enough and want to make sure that with Democratic Senator Barack Obama now the Democrats’ presumptive Presidential nominee the still-looming — and potentially divisive — campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton is definitively short-circuited once and for all?

It certainly looks that way. There were two big bits of news last night:

1. Obama now has the winning numbers to be the Democratic party’s nominee and his win is symbolic in terms of ethnicity and an epic shift in Democratic party control from the Clintons to a newer group of Democrats.

2. Hillary Clinton’s speech last night that was cheered by supporters but criticized by many as graceless was peppered with continued hints that Obama’s win was not quite legitimate. Clinton had her chance to be a unifier — and passed on it. Which means that if Clinton doesn’t get the nomination, her supporters will feel it was stolen from her.

So now the big news the day after is that amid continued and accelerating indications that the Clinton camp is attempting to pressure Obama to offer her the Veepstakes, Pelosi, Reid and Dean are telling superdelegates to make up their minds by Friday on who they support.

The LA Times reports:

With the final primary concluded barely hours before, top Democratic Party leaders in Washington early this morning ratcheted up the pressure to force all remaining uncommitted superdelegates to make their choice of candidate known by Friday — and thus end the now hopeless, one-time frontrunning campaign of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The joint statement was obviously pre-planned and timed for issue shortly after Clinton refused to concede the presidential nomination’s victory to Barack Obama, who’s gained sufficient delegates to clinch the party’s nomination.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, chairman of the Democratic Governors Assn., issued the brief statement for unity just minutes ago:

“The voters have spoken,” they said, adding later, “Democrats must now turn our full attention to the general election. To that end, we are urging all remaining uncommitted super delegates to make their decisions known by Friday of this week, so that our party can stand united.”

The carefully-worded statement, which does not urge the superdelegates to go one way or the other, is a clear step to force an end to the effort by Clinton, who said Tuesday she would take a few days to consider her options and protect the voices of the nearly 18 million voters who cast ballots for her in recent months. Her hand is now being forced by the Friday deadline.

The political context is important.

While newspapers around the world run photos of Obama on their front pages and note the United States’ historical moment, the big behind-the-scenes political story is a reported full-press effort by prominent Clinton supporters on several fronts to pressure Obama to take Clinton as his Vice Presidential candidate. And some reports suggest her in-effect continuing her campaign and not stepping out as most politicos would do when the numbers were totally against her is a hard-ball political bargaining chip: You better pick me or this will continue in some form or another until Denver.

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports:

In the absence of a concession speech from Sen. Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night, top figures in the Democratic Party are set to go public, urging all uncommitted officials to declare their presidential affiliations.

The move, which had been anticipated but seemed unnecessary following Obama’s clinching of the nomination on Tuesday night, is an indication that few figures beyond Clinton’s utmost loyalists are willing to stomach a prolonged vacation period for the New York Democrat to make up her mind.

Obama, regardless of how the remainder of uncommitted officials come down, has declared the mantle of presumptive Democratic nominee. And it seems, at this point, that he is willing to put Clinton behind him in his efforts to focus on the general election match-up.

….Wednesday’s statement by Democratic leadership seems designed to preempt any thoughts of a continued primary challenge. It declares that Democrats will be united heading towards November, and stresses the need of uncommitted superdelegates to declare their support for a candidate.

Newsweek’s The Stumper blog, in a detailed piece
that contains some solid speculative analysis, offers this bit of reporting on the Clinton camp’s agenda at a time when Reid, Dean, Pelosi and others say time can’t be wasted for the party to unify and get to work against likely GOP nominee Senator John McCain (and his “unofficial” adviser Karl Rove):

But now a top Clinton strategist has exclusively confirmed to NEWSWEEK’s Suzanne Smalley that the VP “discussion” also arose on other calls today with various Congressional supporters–and, in each instance, Clinton “left the door open.”

“Many of her supporters believe if she’s not nominated she must be on the ticket,” the strategist says.”They’ve been overt and aggressive about that.” …..

….What’s important here is not that Clinton is interested in the Number Two slot; that shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s that the Clinton camp clearly wants the world to know, right now, that she is. The point: to put public pressure on Obama to pick her as VP at the precise moment that she has the most possible leverage–i.e., when many of her 17 million voters don’t want to see her go. Note that when the AP reported Clinton would concede tonight, the campaign smacked the story down; meanwhile, staffers are actually confirming the veep speculation. That speaks volumes.

And, indeed, it just so happens that Clinton mega-loyalist Lanny Davis has he-says-all-on-his-own launched a petition drive complete with a new website (womenforpolitics) to pressure Obama. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Note that we noted he says it’s all on his own.

Obama’s dilemma is clear.

Putting Clinton on the ticket could bring together the party’s two coalitions and perhaps undercut a new GOP anti-Obama tactic: Republicans using Clinton’s anti-Obama speeches to battle Obama.

But Clinton has her own baggage, Obama wouldn’t be off to a good start if he appears to give in to what now seems to be clearcut pressure (and a threat that Clinton will still be out there until Denver if he doesn’t take her on the ticket) — and could he really WANT the White House if it means Bill Clinton hanging around every day?

It’s within this context that Pelosi, Reid and Dean are moving swiftly to get a final tally on the numbers, move to unify the party, and get behind one candidate.

The New York Time’s Maureen Dowd’s column signaled the fact that although yesterday was about a historic moment in American political history, a watershed moment in racial American racial history — it was also yet another moment in an ongoing, headline-dominating drama that follows the Clintons around whether they’re in power or campaigning. And Clinton has indicated she doesn’t see it as totally over:

For months, Hillary has been trying to emasculate Obama with the sort of words and themes she has chosen, stirring up feminist anger by promoting the idea that the men were unfairly taking it away from the women, and covering up her own campaign mistakes with cries of sexism. Even his ability to finally clinch the historic nomination did not stop her in that pursuit. She did not bat her eyelashes at him and proclaim him Rhett Butler instead of Ashley Wilkes.

She just urged her supporters to keep the dream alive, and talked privately about what she would settle for. She has told some Democrats recently that she wanted Obama to agree to allow a roll call vote, like days of yore, so that the delegates of states she won would cast the first ballot for her at the convention. She said she wanted that for her daughter.

Obama supporters are worried that it’s a trick and she’ll somehow snatch away the nomination. Just as Hillary supporters have hardened toward him, many of Obama’s donors and fans have hardened against the Clintons, saying it would be disillusioning to see them on a ticket that’s supposed to be about fresh politics.

“It would be,” said one influential Democrat, “like finding out there’s no tooth fairy.”

Indeed, Hillary Clinton last night indicated that, at a time when party leaders want the party to unite and the numbers are not that there for her to win, she had to make a choice and chose to remain a divisive leader.

This raises the genuine question that has repeatedly emerged in the Clinton campaign: if the low premium she seemingly places on consensus, aggregating a widespread number of diverse and potentially conflicting interests, and unity within her own party is any indication, she ever gets to the Oval Office just what kind of Presidency would Americans see?

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank on Clinton’s speech last night:

Terry McAuliffe, the campaign chairman, took the stage and read the full list of Clinton’s victories, from American Samoa to Massachusetts. Introducing Clinton, he asked: “Are you ready for the next president of the United States?”

This brought laughter from the reporters in the back of the room, but Clinton induced the crowd to boo the “pundits and naysayers” who would have run her from the race. “I am so proud we stayed the course together,” she told her backers, who interjected cries of “We believe in you!” and “Yes, we will!”

Only obliquely did Clinton refer to the fact that she had, in fact, lost the nomination. “The question is: Where do we go from here?” she said. She would figure that out “in the coming days,” she said, but “I will be making no decisions tonight.” The crowd in the Bearcat Den erupted in a sustained cheer. She referred her supporters to her Web site, as she had after many a primary night victory.

For a candidate who had just lost the nomination, she seemed very much in charge.

That must be what Hillary wants.

The problems: it isn’t what Pelosi, Reid and Dean see the numbers as indicating — and it may not exactly be what Obama is looking for (or needs) in a V.P.

The Politico’s Roger Simon thinks Clinton’s speech last night could have been a huge mistake:

For someone giving indications she would like to be Obama’s running mate, Clinton was surprisingly ungracious. In fact, if you had just awakened from a (blissful) 17-month sleep, you would have thought she had won.

….But her fighting words only increased the need for Obama to show that he can be strong, tough and in charge. Clinton’s unwillingness to recognize Obama as the victor only increased the need for Obama to act like a president and not like a doormat. And denying her a vice presidential slot may be a way of doing that.

It has been a hard-fought and sometimes bitter campaign, but Obama is not, one of his senior advisers assured me Tuesday night, going to spend a lot of time in the next few months wooing Clinton supporters whose feelings may be hurting.


–Andrew Sullivan was appalled by Clinton’s speech and impressed by Obama’s.
On Clinton:

Her narcissism requires that she deprive her opponent of a night, or a second, of gratification or attention. And she has now won, in her Bush-like version of reality, 18 million votes. Her invitation for her supporters to email their suggestions to her website is pure theater, a way of keeping herself in the spotlight and maneuvering her delegates to demand a second spot on the ticket. The way she is now doing this – by an implicit threat, backed by McCain, to claim that Obama is an illegitimate nominee if she does not get her way – is designed to humiliate the nominee sufficiently to wound him enough to lose the election.

Either way, she is clearly intent on getting Obama defeated this fall if she is not offered the vice-presidency. And if she gets the veep nod, the way she has gotten it will allow her to argue that a November loss was not her loss. It was his. And she will run again in 2012.

On Obama’s:

If I needed reassurance that this man is the most formidable force in American politics today, his speech tonight confirmed it. It was shrewd – with an artful positioning on Iraq. It was graceful – with respect for McCain’s service and Clinton’s tenacity. It was brutal – in turning around McCain’s Iraq visit meme to domestic economic woes. It was patriotic – in its evocation of Gettysburg and the Second World War. It was outer-directed: not for Obama the recourse to self-satisfied identity politics of the kind used by the Clintons because they often have nothing else. It was moving. I thought I even saw some suggestions of tears as he remembered his grandmother. It was also rhetorically more powerful than McCain – not by a small amount but by a mile. Put McCain’s speech against Obama’s – and this was a wipe-out. Not a victory. A wipe-out. Rhetorically, they are simply not in the same league. And if the contrast tonight between McCain and Obama holds for the rest of the campaign, McCain is facing a defeat of historic proportions.

The New Republic:

What good could possibly come of this? With Hillary proclaiming herself the legitimate winner, they’re clearly going to say “keep going.” If she actually does keep going, that’s a disaster for the Democratic Party. And if she doesn’t, you’ve just drawn a ton of attention to the fact that a large chunk of the party doesn’t accept Obama as the legimiate nominee. No, worse: you’ve encouraged them to think that, then drawn attention to it.

What a disaster.

Ann Althouse:

I went to bed last night thinking there’s no way Barack Obama should pick Hillary Clinton as his running mate. But I woke up this morning, turned on the TV news to see a rerun of her speech from last night and thought: He must pick her!

Read her ENTIRE post since she goes into detail.

Poligazette’s Claudia on Clinton and the Veepstates:

Perhaps she’d rather put him in a position where not asking her will make him look bad, with that being her actual goal? In this scenario, she knows he won’t ask (in case she says yes) and wants to continue to make her “I’m the victim and you who supported me are disenfranchised” case. You might be shocked to know I don’t actually think this is the correct option. Clinton is a practical lady, and this would not advance her career in any way.

I’ve come to peace with the matter. I’ll admit, the first time I thought she might have to be on the ticket, I shuddered. I’ve had quite enough of her, frankly. But as time has gone by I realized I’d much rather have her on the ticket and have Obama in the White House. If she can help him win, then she should be on the ticket. I happen to think he’s not a pushover and won’t let her OR Bill dominate his White House. Besides VPs have traditionally had attack dog roles in campaigns, and she’d make a fantastic attack dog.

The Daily Kos’s Francny:

I think Hillary Clinton’s refusal to acknowledge Senator Obama’s win as our nominee was designed solely for Hillary Clinton’s benefit.

I say to Hillary Clinton this. You are now old news. YOU LOST. You do not have the right to DEMAND anything and I as a voter, and a supporter who worked hard for the Obama campaign am outraged that you continue to disparage Senator Obama and his accomplishments. You are out for yourself, and while you may SAY you are concerned about the voters and their voice, you are using up any political capital you have by undermining our candidate.

Steve Benen:

I suspect this is about two angles — retiring the campaign’s considerable debt and pushing for the VP slot. We’ll learn more about both soon enough. Stepping back, though, Clinton must be severely disappointed, but no one, anywhere, can say she didn’t fight aggressively enough or work hard enough. She put everything she had on the line, and came extremely close to pulling it off. Every time Clinton would get knocked down, she’d get right up again, proving that her reputation for toughness and tenacity is well deserved.

The race just ended 12 hours ago, so it’s going to take some time to make good-faith efforts to restore some party unity. Once Clinton concedes — which, one assumes, should be fairly soon — I just hope both camps remember that respect is a two-way street. Obama sounded the right note last night, acknowledging Clinton’s exemplary record and steadfast spirit. Clinton may have chosen a different path last night, but I’m confident that she’ll sound a similar note. Any minute now.

Ed Morrissey:

In watching and reading some of the reaction, many reveled in Obama’s nomination for the same reason. They want to feel good about America rather than have an experienced nominee. In fact, they not only want to feel good about America, they want to feel good about themselves. They wanted to be part of that historical moment, and that was their first priority — and that’s not limited to Obama supporters, either. The lament one hears most about Hillary’s collapse has nothing to do with policy, experience, or expertise, but that she didn’t get to be the one who makes history.

Well, history has been made, and I congratulate Senator Obama on beating the Clintons, a truly remarkable achievement considering the groundwork laid for Hillary’s bid over the last eight years. Perhaps now we can focus less on making history and back-clapping and start determining which candidate has the experience, accomplishments, and consistency to make the best President.


Last night we heard Hillary say that she wasn’t making any decisions anytime soon regarding her presidential bid. This gives her some time to see if she can raise more money and if the Michelle Obama “whitey” video surfaces today as the rumors say it will. If it does and the video is as damning as people say it is, then that gives Hillary a lot more leverage with not only the remaining uncommitted superdelegates but with those who have already publicly said they will support Obama to get them to change sides and support her.

TMV Editor’s note: If such a tape exists and came out now it would be attributable to the Clinton campaign even if the campaign denies it. The GOP would use a tape such as this in September or October, not in June. Prediction: it would backfire. News media would also be rife with analysis on the timing and sourcing of such a tape. Wizbang points to the LA Times post we linked to and writes:

This certainly puts to bed Hillary’s quest for the Democratic nomination. Even if the Michelle tape surfaces today, Friday may still be too soon to really tell what the damage will be as it can sometimes take several news cycles for a scandal to truly take shape and hurt a candidate seriously. By Friday, uncommitted superdelegates may still choose to go with Obama.

Dick Polman:

And it’s important to remember that the political media (the same media that Bill Clinton whines about today) basically declared her the winner last year before a singe citizen had cast a vote. Indeed, on the day Obama announced his candidacy, The New York Times took care to remind readers that Clinton was dominant, due to her “years of experience in presidential politics, a command of policy and political history, and an extraordinarily battle-tested network of fundraisers and advisers.”

Yet without any serious executive experience, Obama oversaw a $250-million campaign operation that, among other achievements, pioneered new frontiers in small-donor Internet fundraising, captured the “change” theme and owned it, and managed to survive 16 months of unprecedented battle without any changes in senior campaign personnel. Clinton lagged in the money contest, lost out on “change,” and had to overhaul her hierarchy. She was consistently reactive. She was outfought, although she remains too graceless to acknowledge it….

…So, for instance, what message did Clinton mean to convey last night when she merely lauded Obama and his supporters “for the race they have run,” as opposed to showing some grace and praising the race they have won…let the dish begin.

Taylor Marsh:

The pundits are tripping over themselves. Keith Olbermann needed smelling salts. Chris Matthews went… well, let’s just say there were no tingles down his legs.

She didn’t concede! Wha-aaat?

Well Timmy, come to find out Senator Clinton has her own path. She also doesn’t need directions to find the next step. This will unfold as she chooses. She’s earned that much.

I will say again, I’m all in on a dream ticket. I think it would be unbeatable. I also think she’s earned it if she wants it.

John Aravosis:

Obama won tonight and she still can’t concede. Take a flying leap. You lost. You nasty woman. She can’t decide what she wants to do, whether she concedes or not. So she wants people to email her and help her decide. What a nasty woman. Oh, and don’t suggest to her that another woman take the VP position – Hillary’s staff already made clear that Obama isn’t allowed to offer the position to any other women, even though Hillary doesn’t want it. She’s just a nasty nasty woman. I’m so glad the Democratic leadership gave her space and her time to grieve. How’s that working for you?

Washington Monthly’s Cheryl Rofer:

Hillary whipped out the gender card again last night. “What does Hillary want?” she asked, evoking Freud’s plaint.

In hanging on, she fuels stereotypes of women: don’t know how to play the game, bitchy and ungracious. It’s the softer stereotypes she has eschewed. Those who need the stereotypes will find them, either way.

Any of us who have done anything with our lives have faced these apparent no-win tradeoffs. The stakes are higher, and the sexism more unrelenting, the higher you go.

…But there’s a real high ground, made up of grace and generosity, accepting reality. Most of us can see it unless we’re blinded by the glare of chutzpah. It raises one’s own status, along with the tenor of the conversation. It’s available to women and men, both. We can hope that Hillary will seize the high ground this week.

James Joyner:

Divisive as this race has been, mostly because Clinton continued a scorched earth campaign months after it was all but certain that Obama would prevail, I continue to believe that most Democrats will rally behind their nominee. It’s going to be a long five months to Election Day….

…Clinton’s dogged campaign provides something of a roadmap for Team McCain. Certainly, she’s provided plenty of footage for Republican television spots. It may well be that the weak points Clinton identified, which didn’t quite work with a Democratic nominating electorate, will go over better in a general election campaign.

It’s worth noting, too, that Clinton continued to win states right up until the last night despite the media having (rightfully) declared her campaign dead weeks ago. For all his oratorical skill, he’s a flawed candidate.

–Political Scientist Steven Taylor has a post that needs to be read in its ENTIRETY. He calls an Obama-Clinton ticket “The Nightmare Ticket.” Here is a small part of his analysis:

In terms of the Clinton voters, the main way they are going to start accepting the fact that Obama is the nominee is for Clinton to give up the race. As long as she pretends like she is somehow still in the race (by talking about the popular vote and winning swing states in the primary, as she did last night) they won’t give up hope.

In fact, to me, one of the fascinating elements of this race has been to watch the emotional attachments that voters in the two camps have created with their candidates, especially the Clinton voters (who, as it has become clearer that they will lose, have become more vociferously attached to their candidate). There were some similar attachments formed by GOP voters earlier in the year, and yet much of that passion has dissipated once it was clear that their candidate had no chance. Even the initial anger at McCain has faded substantially within hardcore Republican circles. There is a lesson here for Democrats as they look at the disgruntled Clinton voters and think that it is impossible that the rift between the two Democratic camps cannot be healed.

Beyond the general difficulties for Obama of dealing with Hillary (as well as Bill), I think that the main chance that the Democrats have of wooing independents and some Republicans is an Obama ticket sans Clinton….

My DD’s Todd Beaton:

Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal that she didn’t concede tonight. Come on, tonight was Obama’s night; she wants her concession to be her moment and hers alone.

I do, however, hope it comes some time this week. If she still hasn’t conceded by Friday, we really do have to start wondering what she’s thinking.

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