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.
If there are tipping points in presidential contests, this surely is a possible one: Representative John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights era, has flipped. He had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic contest. But on Thursday, Lewis, a superdelegate, said he would vote for Barack Obama at the Democratic convention.
Up to now, it's been the Obama camp and Obama supporters who have seemed the most worried about those hundreds of superdelegates who could decide the race. Many Obama fans have expressed the fear that these Democratic insiders will pour into some backroom at the convention and throw their votes to Clinton, even if she places second in the race for the pledged delegates produced by the primaries and caucuses. But Lewis, who cited the "sense of movement" and "sense of spirit" in Obama's campaign, is proof that the wind can blow the other way. Put simply, insiders like a winner.
Lewis noted that he could not vote against the clear wishes of the voters in his Georgia district, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in that state's Democratic primary. And as perhaps the leading African American member of the House, he was, with his opposition to Obama, in an awkward position. How could he stand against the first African American (and Democratic) candidate with a decent chance of becoming president? But it turned out not to be such a tough spot to escape. The Clintons must be seething. Not just because they have lost Lewis's vote but because of the signal he sends to other superdelegates committed to or leaning toward Clinton: Yes, you can.
Lewis paves the way for others who are also moved by Obama's "movement"--or, to be polite about it, motivated by his momentum. While Clinton appears to have a modest lead in superdelegates, it is far from insurmountable. And like Lewis, many of the superdelegates will look to see what's happened on the ground before deciding how to cast their votes. If Obama's march does end up winning more popular support than Clinton's, many of these powerbrokers will not want to be left out of the parade.
Maggie Williams brings back memoriesand baggage. The new campaign manager for Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, who replaced Patti Solis Doyle earlier this week, was chief of staff for First Lady Clinton. In that role, she became a bit player in two major Clinton War battles of the 1990s: Whitewater and the campaign-fundraising scandal, which included allegations that China had tried to illegally funnel donations to the Democratic Party. In each case, Williams was the target of conservative suspicions about the Clinton gangsome overheatedbut she escaped any real trouble. Her involvement in the White House fundraising caper, though, did raise questions about her credibility.
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.