Fmr. Presidential Adviser
CNN Sr. Political Analyst
In these final weeks of the Democratic primary process, Hillary Clinton has not only piled up votes, but she has also amassed some powerful arguments for her candidacy. Since March 5, she has won more than half of the contests and beaten Barack Obama in the popular vote, 6.8 million to 6.2 million. Moreover, she has consistently been outshining Obama as a fall candidate against John McCain in a number of key states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania most prominent among them. So, there is more than just vanity behind her efforts to pull off a last-minute upset.
Even so, Obama can well argue that he has even more powerful arguments to claim the party crown. Yes, she has won the second half of the game, but think about it this way:
if the Patriots and the Giants play a re-match for the Super Bowl and the Patriots win the first half by two touchdowns and the Giants win the second half by 10 points - well, the Giants can claim they emerged as the stronger team at the end, but the Patriots win the game. (Go Pats!)
And just so here, as far as Obama is concerned: he won the first half by a sizable margin, she won the second half - yet he still winds up with more total points on the board. Counting Puerto Rico and the outcome of the Rules deliberations on Saturday, he is still more than 100 ahead in pledged delegates; he has won 33 of 51 contests so far (with Montana and South Dakota still to go), and by most normal standards of counting, he has won more popular votes. (Her claim that the ballots in Florida and Michigan should be counted as full votes seems dubious at best when her own representatives at the Rules committee on Saturday came out in favor of reducing both states to half vote status.) Final point for Obama: the flow of superdelegates is overwhelmingly in his direction. After Super Tuesday, Hillary had a superdelegate lead of over 70. He has now erased that margin and built a lead of over 40.
So, as strong as Clinton's arguments are and as much credit as she deserves for ending up with a spirited, successful finale, the hour draws near for her to make some tough decisions. Does she fight on to Denver, suspend her active campaign and hope that he falls apart, or bow out with a fulsome endorsement of Obama?
My bet is that she chooses Option 3 and does it before the end of the week. She is smart enough to recognize that on Saturday, the hottest dispute came down to just four delegates from Michigan. It is hard to imagine that she will take that fight all the way to Denver, especially when so many of her own heavyweight supporters won't have their hearts in it. Option 2 has logic to it, but she would risk coming off as a very sore loser. With Option 3, she can begin to pivot toward a strong push for Obama this fall - and keep open doors for her own future.
But this doesn't let Obama off the hook in the endgame - not by any means. He has to remember what Churchill said: "In Victory, Magnanimity." Just as she must be gracious, he must be magnanimous. I would imagine that serious back channel conversations have already started but if not, they will need to begin immediately. The days ahead will call of delicate and deft diplomacy on both sides if they hope to heal the angry rifts among their supporters and unite for the fall. And that diplomacy will clearly call not only for Obama to pay her proper respect (as he has been doing on the stump recently) but for the two of them to talk through what role she might play, if any, in an Obama Administration - starting with the vice presidency. More on her possible role in a future posting. For now, let's take a ringside seat to watch as the final moments of this historic primary struggle play out.
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