June 2nd, 2008
04:44 PM ET

Two minute warning at the political Super Bowl

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/02/art.hillary2.jpg]
David Gergen
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.

Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • Hillary Clinton • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. gerry

    I cannot believe David Gergen suggesing Barack should offer her the VP role. David knows all the Clinton baggage and the republicans already have adds exposing it in the can ready to run.

    If she's the VP McCain wins

    June 3, 2008 at 9:55 am |
  2. Chérie, Miami

    Senator Clinton and her family has been stabbing Senator Obama until the last minute when it was not even necessary which prove a underlying hostility. If ever she become the VP I am afraid it will turn to a McMellan perpetual criticism.

    June 3, 2008 at 9:49 am |
  3. mm

    Let's move forward not backwards, keep the old angry Clintons completely out of the white house. We don't need anymore of the Bushs' and Clintons' "age and experience".

    June 3, 2008 at 9:35 am |
  4. Alec - Barbados (Caribbean Paradise)

    There are precedents, may I add, and valid reasons for a candidate who is well ahead in the primaries (Pres. Clinton, Reagan, to name two) to be beaten in the last few contests. Obama won this fairly and squarely. The rules were broken by Fl and MI and were again broken last Saturday by the DNC rules committee to give Sen. Clinton an advantage, which she didnt deserve ACCORDING TO THE RULES.

    June 3, 2008 at 9:33 am |
  5. Michael

    This is my second presidential election cycle I am able to vote in and honestly I am sick and tired of all the bickering going on between supporters of the two campaigns. This year we only have one chance to make sure a third Bush term doesn't happen.

    Now with both candidates being history making candidates, the first female and the first black, it isn't surprising that there would be many hurt feelings for the candidate who lost the nomination. However I really hope people put it into perspective.

    Now I know that the nomination isn't technically over, but it does look like Obama's win. As for the first female Democratic nominee it does look like Hillary Clinton has broken enough barriers to make that happen, just not in this year. Whether Hillary runs again in 2012 or 2016 or whether another female runs for the Presidency they will be taken seriously, as they should be, because of what Hillary has accomplished.

    However the most pressing issue right now is to make sure that the failed domestic policies and the disastrous foreign policies of this George Bush administration are unable to continue.

    June 3, 2008 at 9:21 am |
  6. Marc Wise

    David Gergen, one more time you have shone the light for all of us to see what remained to be seen.

    Excellent advise to the contenders. Let's hope they do take it.

    June 3, 2008 at 9:20 am |
  7. Rheem

    Instead of sticking to the topic, this blog seems to be a meeting place for HRC supporters to cry in their beer. HRC supporters, if you want to whine about how unfair your candidate was treated I am sure there is a local tavern in your community and leave the blogging to those who can remain on topic.

    June 3, 2008 at 9:13 am |
  8. elaine

    I am so sick of hearing about Rev. Wright.....I have been a member of my church for 29 years....I show up on Easter and Christmas...how do we know that he even went to church every Sunday. I don't really care about a candidates religion....I want a person in there that has some intelligence to run this country. If you want a religious leader than lets ask the pope or some leading Baptist minister to run for the job. Religion should have nothing to do with polictics... all you folks do seem to cling to your religion.

    June 3, 2008 at 9:09 am |
  9. Mel

    What is now clear when I read the postings of Senator Hillary Rodham Clintons supporters is that many do not know her political platform on the issues. This is what she and Senator Barack Obama share – strong Democratic positions on healthcare, mortgage crisis, tax cuts, environment, and to some extent a sensible withdrawal of troops from Iraq. For Clinton's supporters, especially women, to say they support Senator McCain tells me they have drank the kool-aid. Senator McCain is anti-choice, anti-stem cell research, against gay marriage, and wants to keep the troops in Iraq indefinitely. How can a Democrat vote for 4 more years of a Bush agenda? Lets hope common sense prevail and Dems don't cut of their noses to spite their faces.

    June 3, 2008 at 8:51 am |
  10. Mike


    Who would you prefer to be president, it sounds like you just can't handle your own life so you look for someone to blame? Life's rough but get off your ass and do something about it instead of being a lazy do nothing bum that lets his life fall apart. Your problems are your fault my friend

    June 3, 2008 at 8:42 am |
  11. Gail

    Doesn't anybody get the big picture here??? Obama has "Dr. Phil'd Hillary. Like Dr Phil finesses his relationship with his wife, totally letting her appear as the core, the strength, supporting her limp noodle book etc etc-when he is clearly the intellectual, economic and insightful force of the duo–"Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" mantra-

    Obama and his camp have done much the same thing. BRILLIANT strategists. Brilliant. Obama didn't "lose" the second half of this game. He GAVE it to her. Yes, he fought hard in NC and won, and everything tipped toward him. Everyone called the race right then, but when she didn't withdraw. He Dr Phil'ed her from then on. He battled in Ohio and Indiana-but he saw the momentum, he had the lead. But look: all he did in Kentucky, West Virginia, Puerto Rico etc were parachute drops. He started his Western Strategy...No time at all, in those states, while she hustled and covered every inch of acreage, then claimed huge wins. While she she scrambled in South Dakota, he was in MICHIGAN

    June 3, 2008 at 8:37 am |
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