|For all my involvement in Presidential politics over the last quarter century, I haven't been actively involved in a primary fight since the 1980s. I caucused for home state favorite Harkin in 1992, but turned down requests from his campaign to go to New Hampshire, as my heart wasn't in it. I helped raise early money and did some politics for the Clinton re-elect in 1996, but there wasn't a primary. In 2000 and 2004, and so far this cycle, I stayed completely out of helping any primary candidate. I've made these decisions because:
• I have always cared a lot more about winning the general than anything
• We haven't had primaries where any of the candidates seemed that much better than the others
• I wanted to be able to work effectively with whomever won
• I always cared a lot more about movement building than primary fights.
This time, the decision to stay out has been especially complicated by my relationship with Hillary Clinton. I am a loyalty guy, have always stuck by friends and the people who have been good to me even when I don't always agree with them, and Hillary has always been good to me personally. The Clintons brought me to Washington, took a chance on me as a very young man with little national experience. Hillary always treated me collegially and with great respect, both when I worked for her and afterwards.
Beyond all that, I came to respect her a great deal, as I wrote in the past. While I disagreed with her sometimes, feeling that she was not as progressive as I would have liked, she was more progressive than most people give her credit for, and I found her to be incredibly smart and compassionate and tenacious about fighting for what she believed in. I think she would make a good President.
For all these reasons I did think about signing up with her campaign early on, and had some conversations with the campaign about playing a role. For a variety of reasons on both sides (probably foremost of which was my honesty about my disagreements with Penn's strategy, noted here and here), that didn't happen. Given that I've generally been more comfortable not playing a role in primaries, it was actually my preference to stay on the outside.
Having established that I would once again stay out of the nomination fight, I was resolved to stay neutral throughout the battle. I commented frequently on these pages about what I thought the dynamics of the campaign were. I praised and criticized most of the candidates and campaigns at various points, and thought I did it honestly and fairly even-handedly. If you had put a gun to my head and said I had to support someone, it would have been Hillary for all those personal reasons, because I agree with her more on health care, and because I know she will fight back against the Republicans as tough as anybody we could have.
My feelings started to change after going to Iowa for caucus night. The enthusiasm and passion of all the young Obama supporters, their excitement about being involved in progressive politics, won my heart. If Obama could inspire all these folks who probably never would have showed up at all, that was a pretty exciting thing. However, I continued to feel that it was important to stay neutral for all the reasons I mentioned above, and continued to praise and beat up on both sides from time to time as the campaign went on.
However, we have now come to a crossroads in this campaign. Ironically, it was yesterday's results which have spurred my decision. If Obama had won Texas or Ohio or both, the end would be clearly in sight, and there would have been no reason for me to take the painful personal step of opposing my old friend Hillary. But I now feel it more important than ever to do so. Yesterday's victories by Hillary were impressive- as I've said before, you can never count her out. But even as impressive as those victories were, she gained very little net advantage in the delegate race. It's become increasingly clear to me that between Obama's delegate lead and the number of states left where he is likely to win big victories (WY, MS, NC, OR, MT, SD), it is virtually impossible for Hillary to gain an advantage in the pledged delegate count.
It is also clear that she won Ohio and Texas in great part to a harshly negative attack, including an ad and rhetoric on national security that completely reinforces the Bush/McCain/Republican line of attack on Democrats for the last several years.
I am not arguing that Obama is the inevitable candidate, so we should all just fall in line. In fact, I do think there is a path to the nomination for Clinton:
• She runs another harshly negative attack echoing Republican themes and beats Obama in PA
• The campaign lays heavy pressure and cuts every deal imaginable to win over a solid majority of the remaining uncommitted delegates
• The campaign then wins a bitterly negative, highly divisive credentials committee fight by a few votes
At that point, she has just enough delegates to win the nomination in a fight that goes down to convention week.
I can't think of another scenario at this point for a Clinton victory. None of the pro-Clintonites I have asked about it can spell out another way, either.
With that kind of nomination fight, the millions of African-Americans, first-time-involved-in-politics young people, and all the other Obama folks leave Denver feeling like the election has been stolen.
That is not a recipe for a Democratic victory in November. As high as my regard is for Hillary Clinton, as strong as my instinct has always been to remain neutral, that kind of scenario forces me to support Obama. The best hope our party has in the fall is for Obama to win the remaining primaries, and for the superdelegates to line up behind him now.
To all you superdelegates with old loyalties and high regard for the Clintons, like me, I say now is the time to come together to save the party and our country from another disaster this fall. I know it's not easy. It hasn't been for me. But it's time.
Barack Obama is a remarkable candidate who has inspired a new generation to get excited about politics, and has the ability to inspire a country to greatness. It's time for Democratic Party leaders and activists to get behind him.
UPDATE: Listen to Mike Lux discuss his Obama endorsement on the Peter B. Collins show.