- Without a single more superdelegate making an endorsement, it is still possible for Clinton to move pretty close in the delegate count. I presented this case yesterday in a table projecting future delegate counts based on current polling in remaining states, which shows Clinton down by 79 delegates when all the voting is completed. However, it should be pointed out that it is also possible for Clinton to surpass current delegate projections and polling. She could, for example, net 18 more delegates in Michigan, 16 more delegates in PA, 12 more in Indiana, 10 more in Florida, 6 more in North Carolina, 4 more in both Puerto Rico and Oregon, and 2 more in West Virginia, Montana, and Kentucky. All told, that would put her within three delegates of Obama. If that winning streak also results in her winning the national popular vote, then she would have an overwhelming argument to bring to superdelegates based on both momentum and the popular will.
Some might object, and argue that since Obama has consistently gained ground on Clinton once campaigning has begun in any given state, the above delegate projections are unrealistic. However, why on earth should a campaign assume that it will drop in the polls no matter what happens in the future? Such a claim is asking Clinton to admit that there is no way for her to ever improve on her current polling position, a claim that is not only incredibly defeatist, but has also been proven wrong on a number of occasions. Clinton's polling relative to McCain improved during the entire first half of 2007, relative to Obama during the summer of 2007 and during mid-January 2007, and relative to both during the first week of March. While unlikely, it is not impossible for her to improve her position, get closer in the pledged delegate count, and win the popular vote. Even at this point, it can be done without thwarting the popular will.
- It is true that the Clinton campaign has not exactly been a bastion of light in recent weeks of the campaign. Specifically, arguing that John McCain would make a better Commander in Chief than Obama, in combination with threats to thwart the popular will, arguments that certain states don't matter, and comments like those from Geraldine Ferraro are all damaging to the party. I don't support any of those, and think that her campaign needs to change direction on those issues. However, that does not mean she should drop out, it simply means her campaign should change its rhetorical course. Those are not the only arguments her campaign can make. She needs to stop being damaging to the party, not drop out.
- To date, the contested primary campaign has actually been very good for the party. Cumulatively, it has created millions of new Democrats, sent our fundraising through the roof, improved our polling position for the general election, and turned a lot of red states purple. Organizing in all fifty states, straight through June 3rd, will only continue this pattern. By contrast, Democrats are not polling particularly well in Florida, a state where there was not a contested Democratic primary. I simply see no way that ending the campaign now will help Democrats in the general election. Let's play the string out to the end, and organize and campaign everywhere.
Also, I just hate it when progressives start to argue that contested primaries are bad for the party. Primary campaigns have proven to be one of our only effective ways of pushing the Democratic Party to the left, and of bringing new grassroots energy to the party. When we start to argue that primaries should be avoided "for the good of the party," then we start to sound like the loser establishment types that have long argued our primary campaigns are destructive. I hate that argument, both because it is simply not true that primaries are bad for the party, and because it urges people to fall in line rather than using internal, democratic means to fight for what they believe in. A party that stands for falling in line ultimately stands for nothing, and will inevitably atrophy as time goes on.
- It is true that Obama appears to have stronger coattails for downticket Democrats at this point in time. However, that is not the case in every part of the county, and it also can change over the next three months. If, for example, Clinton goes on a big winning streak starting in Pennsylvania, then it won't be long before she starts polling better against John McCain in the general election. Already, she has drawn even with Obama against McCain, and if she takes the momentum in the nomination campaign, she will also take the nomination in the general election. And yes, coattails will follow from that, too.
- I would say that Clinton has about a 5-10% chance of becoming President of the United States right now (10-15% chance to win the nomination, and then a 50-60% chance in the general election). I honestly can't think of any possible future position that someone could hold that would equal the opportunity cost of even a 5% chance to become the most powerful person on the planet. Even if her chances of becoming President are a long shot at this point, they are still real, and as such nothing can possibly compare to them. At this point, continuing her campaign is her best option for the future.
In short, I don't see any good reason for Hillary Clinton to drop out right now. Her campaign needs to adopt thus damaging rhetoric, but that is not the same thing as asking her to drop out. I also think there is a real danger for Obama supporters when they argue Clinton should drop out. It never sounds good to urge your opponent to quit, and simply to hand you a major victory. It sounds weak, as though you can't win the nomination on your own. It sounds snotty, as though you feel you are entitled to the nomination. It sounds dismissive, like you don't care that there are lots of Democrats who support a different candidate. In fact, if you add this all up, it sounds kind of Clintonian, as though large sections of the party should simply stop their whining and fall in line.
Obama supporters should not be urging Clinton to drop out. Change her rhetorical course, yes. Making sure that Obama secures a popular vote victory, yes. Making sure that a popular vote victory is then not thwarted by other forces in the party, yes. Ultimately, however, there is no good reason for Hillary Clinton to drop out at this point, and I cringe whenever I see calls for her to leave the campaign. Honestly, such calls feel like meeting the enemy, and discovering that the enemy was us all along.