WHAT’S THE ENDGAME?
Are the Democrats ever going to nominate a candidate?
Will it be before the convention?
Will the Party be torn apart?
Will it be united and harmonious going into November?
Here’s how it will go down:
1. THE REMAINING PRIMARIES
Despite her noisy pretentions to the contrary, Hillary will fall far short of a decisive victory in the late primaries. In fact, she might even lose most of them.
Obama has vastly more money that she does which permits him to outdo her 2:1 or 3:1 or even 4:1 in television advertising. As a result, Obama will close the gap in Pennsylvania and might even eek out a narrow win. In Indiana, the next large state, they will also run about even but Obama should score a decisive win in North Carolina. Only in Puerto Rico (which, oddly, outvotes a lot of states!) will Hillary rack up a big win.
By the time the primaries are over, on June 3, Obama will still lead in pledged or elected delegates by about 150 votes, about the same as his current lead.
At the same time, super delegates will continue their migration to Obama. Since February 5th, he has won almost seventy super delegates while Hillary has gotten fewer than ten. Super delegates, party professionals all, know how to tell a winner from a loser.
After the primaries have run their course, Obama will have more than 1,900 delegates, about 100 short of the 1025 he needs to win. Hillary will only have less than 1,800 delegates at that point.
2. THE PARTY LEADERS INTERVENE
At that point, the elder statesmen of the Democratic Party will consult with one another and emerge, together and separately, to call for an end to the nominating process.
Former Vice President Al Gore, Party Chairman Howard Dean, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and defeated candidate John Edwards will say that the nominating process is splitting the party and handicapping its eventual nominee, giving McCain a free ride while the Democrats tear one another apart. (Former president Jimmy Carter may join this group).
Citing Obama’s lead among elected delegates, all delegates, in the number of states carried, and in the popular vote, they will call on super delegates to fall in line behind the wishes of their voters.
As a result of their prompting, Obama will hold a press conference with a significant number of super delegates, perhaps enough to assure the nomination, and announce their support. The event will include several who are now committed to Hillary Clinton.
The effect of the Obama announcement, coupled, with the pressure from party leaders, will be to accelerate the shift of super delegates to his corner, draining Hillary of any chance at the nomination.
By about mid-June, Obama will pass 2025 delegates and will lay claim to the nomination. After a period of trying to shake the super delegates and failing, Hillary will be forced to acknowledge the inevitable.
The party leaders will then impose a solution on the Florida/Michigan credentials battle under which both states are able to seat suitably diminished delegations, but only within the context of an acceptance of Obama’s nomination.
3. THE DEAL
At that point, Hillary will have two key concerns:
- (a) She will be massively in debt; and
- (b) She will worry about her viability in New York State and in the Senate.
Money will weigh heavily on Hillary’s mind. As of the end of February, 2008, her campaign owed a total debt of $13 million, including $5 million to herself. By the end of March, that debt will likely have grown and should reach up to about $20 million by the time the primaries are over.
While Hillary will have a general election war chest of much more than $10 million, she will have to return that money to the donors or, perhaps, be able to transfer it to her US Senate general election campaign account. But, in any event, she won’t be able to use it to pay off her debts.
Hillary will want to take her own $5 million out of the campaign (and by then she may have kicked in some more) and will be under huge pressure to pay her vendors, many of whom are, even now, starting to complain to the media.
Because she raised her primary funds largely from maxed out donors, she won’t be able to go back to the usual suspects to get more money and there will not be a market of people who haven’t given yet to her campaign who will donate while the ship is sinking.
The prospect of having to pay for the debt herself will terrify both Clintons, nouveau riche and now without anything much to sell, and will pry open their ears to proposals from Obama. Like the issue of how to repatriate POWs after the war is lost, the Clintons’ debt will figure heavily in their post-primary considerations.
The Clintons will try to sell Obama on Hillary for Vice-President, the “dream” ticket, but Obama is too smart to fall for that. Instead, he will say that he will seriously consider Senator Clinton, because of her obvious merits, but will make no commitment to anyone until the convention. Translation: You have to pull out now and I might consider you later.
But Obama will not come empty handed to Hillary. He will offer to help her raise funds to wipe out her debt as the price of party unity. With one click of a mouse, he could turn on his 1.3 million donors (as of the end of March) and generate substantial cash for Senator Clinton. Appealing to the good will of the party and asking his donors to help unite the party, he will offer to try to raise her funds.
The Senator will also be in a position to help her with her other political problem: surviving in New York State and in the US Senate. He will offer to send the word to the African-American community in New York not to take reprisals against Hillary for her opposition to him and will tell her that he will discourage a primary fight when she runs for re-election in 2012. In the Senate, he will offer to work with Hillary and will make appropriately soothing noises which she will appreciate.
By the end of June, look for a unity press conference at which Bill, Hillary, and Obama bury the hatchet and promise to work together cheerfully against McCain. (Bill and Hillary won’t mean it, but they won’t do anything to sabotage Obama’s campaign lest they get caught).
The bitter Democratic battle will fade from view and from mind and the Party will purr with unity as their convention in Denver approaches.
WHO WILL OBAMA PICK FOR VP?
One can never tell who a candidate will pick, only who he should choose. There is always a chance of a Dan Quayle emerging, inexplicably, from the pack.
But Obama needs to use the vice presidential nomination to reassure America about his stability, intentions, and the experience and competence of his Administration.
Oddly, he will find himself in much the same position as Bush was in 2000, facing the far more experienced Al Gore. Needing to send a signal of maturity, experience, and stature, he turned to Dick Cheney for the vice presidency.
Faced with a similar situation in 1988, Dukakis chose Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, a party elder who brought needed gravitas to the ticket.
Obama should choose a Democratic Cheney or a new Bentsen.
Who? Defeated confreres Joe Biden or Chris Dodd come to mind. Or he could go through the list of Senate and House Old Bulls and come up with a choice knowledgeable in foreign affairs but young enough to be an attractive candidate.
Or, he might choose Bill Richardson. The New Mexico governor, aka Judas (so named by James Carville for his endorsement of Obama) provides foreign policy gravitas and vast governmental experience. He comes from the west and could hasten the Democratic Party’s efforts to convert western states that were formerly bastions for the GOP.
And he’s Hispanic. With McCain running against Obama, the Latino vote is in play. The Arizona Senator’s record in sponsoring comprehensive immigration reform has won him strong support in the Hispanic community and the ugly racial rift between blacks and Latinos has been evident ever since Spanish speaking voters came out massively for Hillary in California.
Putting Richardson on the ticket could solve a host of problems for Obama.
HAS ANYBODY HEARD FROM JOHN McCAIN?
Meanwhile, the man-who-isn’t-there, John McCain, finds himself marginalized in the media coverage. Not that he’s all that unhappy because all the polls show him ahead of either Obama or Hillary. But he ought to be unhappy. Once Obama is the nominee, the party will unite behind him and he will move ahead of McCain in the polling and could stay there for the rest of the election if McCain doesn’t take steps right now to head that off.
All of Hillary’s voters will go to Obama, despite what they now say to pollsters. They are older, party-line, union, pro-choice Democrats who will come out when the fire bell rings like the old party war horses they are.
But McCain can use this period to define his brand in such a way as to get independent and swing voters.
Unfortunately, Republican Party orthodoxy stresses the need to nail down “the base” before venturing out to get swing voters. But, while the base was enough to win the election of 2004, it is totally inadequate to the new high turnout environment of 2008. Based on the record-setting turnouts in the primaries and caucuses, especially on the Democratic side, it is likely that more than 140 million people will vote in 2008 – 20 million more than in 04 and 40 million more than in 08. Since most of these new voters are downscale, female, single, and minority voters, McCain cannot just stay in the pocket and appeal to the base. He has to venture out.
McCain’s attractiveness to Democrats and Independents has always been based on his populist positions on issues like campaign finance reform, Congressional earmarks and ethics, tobacco regulation and corporate responsibility. Now is the time for him to strike out and articulate some of these positions, making him viable for Democrats and Independents.
The Rev. Wright controversy guarantees a certain level of voter uneasiness with Obama, a kind of cultural alienation and doubt. McCain can capitalize on this worry by being a reliable alternative to Obama and by speaking out on issues that are attractive to Democrats and Independents.
Particularly with the Democrats vying with one another to provide relief for homeowners, McCain can speak about holding those who got us in this mess responsible. Just last week, the former CEO of Countrywide, the leading purveyor of subprime mortgages, announced that he has a new company – dedicated to refinancing mortgages that are in trouble. So he tried to fleece people on the way into debt and now wants to finish the process. And make money both times.
McCain needs to attack the corrupt lenders and brokers who have made billions by lending money to people who they know can never repay it and then by packaging the loans onto the secondary mortgage market so their cancer of bad debt spreads to the entire global economy.
But so far, McCain seems content to do soft-core events designed to showcase his biography and to float stories about who he is considering for VP. He seems to be doing anything to get attention but actually saying the kinds of things he has to say to have a chance to win.