Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.
David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager, was not gloating the morning after. But he did have a message for Hillary Clinton's camp: you can't catch us.
That is, in delegates awarded via primaries and caucuses.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call on Wednesday morning--after Barack Obama swept Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia by supersized margins--Plouffe was low-key in manner but confident in substance. He maintained that, by his campaign's number, Obama now had a lead of 136 delegates in the race for pledged delegates (that excludes superdelegates). He termed it an "enormous" advantage and noted that Clinton could not close this gap without running up a string of "blowout" wins in the coming primaries, including big states (such as delegate-rich Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania) and other states. "Even the most creative math does not get her back to even in pledged delegates," he insisted.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to an influential Hillary Clinton fundraiser. When the subject of John Edwards (still in the race at that time) came up, she started sputtering about his hypocrisy. His expensive hair cut, his big house--the guy's a phony, she exclaimed derisively, and his populist, anti-Washington, help-the-poor rhetoric was all just for show. He won't last.
She was right on that final point. As for his authenticity, that was a question that chased Edwards. During his six years in the U.S. Senate (1999 to 2005), Edwards was no working-class hero. He did not develop a reputation as a firebrand willing to take on the powerbrokers of the nation's capital. At that time, Senator Paul Wellstone was the populist champion in the Senate (until his tragic death in October 2002). Wellstone waged one fight after another against corporate interests, lobbying influence, and the sway of big-money. I don't recall Edwards standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him during all these uphill battles.
Yet on the campaign trail, Edwards became Joe Hill in a suit.
Wellstone once told me that you always have to allow for redemption within politics. And perhaps Edwards' conversion was genuine. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? His message was powerful and well-delivered--even if not embraced by a plurality of Democratic voters. But if Edwards wants to prove he was truly speaking his heart and mind, he has no choice when it comes to endorsing one of the remaining Democratic contenders. He cannot support Hillary Clinton.
"It is so wonderful to be here." So declared Hillary Clinton in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday evening, as vote results being tallied in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia showed she was being clobbered by Barack Obama. But worse for Clinton was that she was losing another clump of post-Super Tuesday primaries by large margins (51 points in D.C., 29 points in Virginia, 23 points in Maryland) because her base voters were abandoning her. The message of the night: Clinton should be scared. And perhaps John McCain should be, too.
Let me humbly suggest that Nick's pledge idea has a flaw. Sure, you can try to compel Democratic superdelegates to vote for whichever candidate arrives at the convention with the most delegates. But few will sign such a pledge, whether or not the Obama and Clinton campaign ask them to do so. Why give up a privilege? Especially when--here's the real issue--outside events might change the landscape.
The last big-state primary (Pennsylvania) occurs on April 22 and the primaries altogether end on June 3. What if in between those dates and the Democratic convention, which opens on August 25, something happens? Maybe Barack Obama is in the lead, and a news report discloses he once sold dope to lobbyists for a health insurance industry. Maybe Hillary Clinton is ahead, and it turns out she did hide legal records during the Whitewater investigation and plotted with her husband to kill their political enemies. In such instances, superdelegates might want to mount a course correction.
Admittedly, these are extreme examples. But there could be other less extreme circumstances in which it would make sense for the superdelegates to reconsider the popular will. As I noted, my hunch is that superdelegates will not willy-nilly vote to hand the nomination to the second-place finisher just out of personal preference. They will be under much scrutiny. And blowing up the party to save a nominee will not be undertaken lightly.
Omigod! Here come the superdelegates! The Washington Post's Paul Kane has done the math and reached the conclusion that the Democratic presidential race will be decided by superdelegates--those 800 or so party officials and officeholders who are automatically awarded delegate status and who can vote any which way they please at the convention. Kane explains:
There are 3,253 pledged delegates, those doled out based on actual voting in primaries and caucuses. And you need 2,025 to win the nomination.
To date, about 52 percent of those 3,253 delegates have been pledged in the voting process -- with Clinton and Obama roughly splitting them at 832 and 821 delegates a piece, according to the AP.
That means there are now only about 1,600 delegates left up for grabs in the remaining states and territories voting.
So, do the math. If they both have 820 plus pledged delegates so far, they'll need to win roughly 1,200 -- 75 percent -- of the remaining 1,600 delegates to win the nomination through actual voting.
In other words: Ain't gonna happen...And then the super delegates decide this thing.
Does this mean the contest will be settled in some smoke-free backroom by machine hacks who don't give a fig about the Democratic vox populi?