Why The Nomination Campaign Won't End

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Apr 21, 2008 at 15:19

Rather than musing about the different ways that the campaign could potentially end, it is probably far more productive to figure out why the nomination campaign is not ending. Once we figure out why the campaign is continuing, we can then work to remove those causes and actually bring the campaign to an end. So, in the spirit of being productive, in the extended entry I list the six main reasons why the nomination campaign continues:
Chris Bowers :: Why The Nomination Campaign Won't End
  • Debates: As long as the Obama campaign is agreeing to debates, and as long as debates are scheduled, then they are actually providing ample justification for the nomination campaign to continue. After all, if the nomination campaign really was a foregone conclusion, then why is the supposed presumptive nominee debating other Democrats? In order to end the nomination campaign, the Obama campaign must reject all further Democratic debates. The breaking news that the North Carolina debate is canceled is a good first step.

  • Clinton Attacks: As long as the Obama campaign is still attacking Clinton via press releases, emails, television ads, or any other campaign dispatches, once again it is providing all the justification necessary for the nomination campaign to continue. After all, if the nomination campaign really was a foregone conclusion, then why is the supposed presumptive nominee attacking other Democrats? In order to end the nomination campaign, the Obama campaign must stop attacking Clinton immediately. And for that matter, we need to stop attacking Clinton, too. It helps keep her relevant.

  • States where Clinton leads: As long as there are upcoming primary states where Clinton holds a lead in the polls, it is pretty difficult to claim that no one should pay attention to the Democratic nomination campaign. Right now, Clinton holds leads in Pennsylvania (April 22nd), West Virginia (May 13th), Kentucky (May 20th) and Puerto Rico (June 1st). Until there are no more states where Clinton leads in the polls, it is pretty difficult to argue that the nomination campaign is over. Even though Obama has a large and nearly insurmountable delegate advantage, psychologically the campaign does not seem to be over if Clinton is still winning states.

    This was also the case on the Republican side. Because of his victories on February 5th and February 9th, Mike Huckabee's campaign was not dismissed in the national media until after he lost the Virginia primary on February 12th. However, once no more potential Huckabee victories were on the horizon, there was no reason to keep following his campaign. The same can be true of the Democratic contest.

  • Clinton still raising significant sums of money: The Clinton campaign may be in the red, but it still raised $20M in March. As long as it keeps raising money at that rate, it will be able to keep a large operation running. However, if at any point it is forced to start cutting significant staff and / or end paid media spending, that will spell the end pretty quickly. So, Clinton's donors are also keeping the nomination campaign alive.

  • Uncertainty: Unlike the Obama campaign, which posts a running delegate count and magic number meter on its campaign website, the Clinton campaign is working to sow as much doubt in the outcome as possible. In addition to not making an public delegate counts, the Clinton campaign also regularly sends out missives on Michigan and Florida, superdelegates, and about how even pledged delegates can flip sides. Increased clarity in delegate counts among major news organizations, and increased clarity on the 55 "uncommitted" delegates for Michigan (all but one of which now appear to actually be Obama delegates), will resolve this issue. The key is cutting through the uncertainty, and making a clear case on where the delegate count stands.

  • Democratic Divided Media Narrative: Above all else, the extensive media focus on the Democratic nomination campaign stems from the deep, longstanding, "Democrats divided" media narrative. After decades of writing thousands of variations on this theme, an endless, inconclusive nomination campaign must be the ultimate dream come true for the established, American political news media. There may not be much we can do about this in such a short time, apart from starting to attack the media for putting so much focus on the nomination campaign.

In summary, here is what needs to be done in order to end the nomination campaign:

  • The Obama campaign must reject all future debates with Clinton, and also stop attacking her. It needs to start acting like Obama is the presumptive nominee if we except the country to think of him that way.
  • The media needs to be pushed to provide clarity on the delegate situation, and to put more focus on the general election. They need to be attacked for their clear desire to pursue the "Democrats divided" narrative indefinitely.
  • Voting either needs to end, or Obama needs to take the lead in all remaining states and territories to vote. The campaign won't end as long as Clinton keeps winning a few states.
  • Clinton's fundraising needs to dry up. The campaign won't end if she still has enough money to maintain her current level of operations.

Apart from actually reaching the magic number to clinch the nomination, those are the concrete steps that can be taken to end the nomination campaign. All of this is far more productive than demanding that Clinton drop out. Such demands not only won't work, but cause Clinton to appear sympathetic for being attacked and principled for continuing to fight against long odds. Further, such demands cause those leveling them to look whiny and afraid, not to mention with a sense of entitlement.

If you want to end the nomination campaign, then work to remove the underlying causes that keep the nomination campaign going.  

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In other words, there is no realistic hope of this ending anytime soon? (4.00 / 1)
I agree with your analysis, and think it would be a very positive step for Obama to stop the debates, stop attacking Clinton and stop even referring to her.  Just let him act like he is the nominee and the general election has begun.

But the other conditions you outline make it pretty clear that, barring an upset in Pennsylvania, we're doomed to see this continue through June.  After all, there is little anyone here can do to stop the media from acting like a real race is ongoing, let alone make Clinton's funding dry up.

Clintons funding has already dried up (4.00 / 3)
"According to campaign reports filed with the Federal Election Commission over the weekend, the New York senator began the month of April with close to $32 million cash-on hand. But only $9 million of that total are funds that are able to be spent in the primary races. The report also showed Clinton owes more than $10 million, meaning the Democratic presidential candidate was in the red even before she heavily stepped up television advertising in Pennsylvania."


Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
Chris' post says the money is still coming in (0.00 / 0)
Seems like the news is that the campaign is in debt, but still raising a ton of money (compared to anyone other than Obama). And if she wins Pennsylvania by 8-10 points, I'm not sure her fund-raising will slow.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm (4.00 / 1)
Maybe she'll start paying her vendors, then?

[ Parent ]
But Will's point is important (4.00 / 1)
If Clinton--who raised 10s of millions in February, only raised 10 million that she can spend in the primary--then she is effectively at the point where she's got to cut expenditures. We know that the campaign has spent half of the money she raised last month on PA, which means she's going to have diminishing amounts to spend in NC and IN.

It's not whether she's still raising money--it's whether she's still raising money she can spend in the primary. And she isn't, really.

[ Parent ]
even if we accept (4.00 / 1)
that she can continue to raise money on a pace to cover her bets, she's getting demolished by Obama in fund raising and that is equivalent to her being broke.

"According to the reports, [Obama] began the month with over $42 million to spend during the presidential primaries and only carried around $650,000 in debt."

Its not close, and every time Hillary says something to piss off his supporters they pony up another $20M.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
What source can be cited (0.00 / 0)
that supports the notion that she is "still raising a ton of money"?  It is one thing for Chris to say that, or for that matter, for others in the media to say she is raising money, but I haven't seen anything credible that supports the idea that she is still raising tons of money.  The very fact that she is in the red again (the second time this year!) suggests that her fund-raising isn't all that what some people are making it out to be.

If there is a credible source that validates this assertion, please share it here.  Give us facts and let us make our own judgments.

[ Parent ]
No source (0.00 / 0)
I was just assuming that the link Chris provided about Clinton raising $20 million in March was accurate.

[ Parent ]
I was referring to subsequent (0.00 / 0)
fund-raising efforts and successes.  March's results are already old news.  I was hoping Chris or someone else was tracking current efforts--hoping that Chris had some evidence to backup the statement about Clinton "still raising tons of money."

I am suspicious of the validity of that piece of data.  

[ Parent ]
i agree w/tom paine (0.00 / 0)
chris' analysis, while it may be right, is not really feasible if it's supposed to be a "what needs to be done list."

i was with you for the first two points; yes, obama can choose not to debate; and yes, we as a progressive movement can hammer the mmm (multi-millionaire media) to be more exact on the delegate count.  and maybe we can even effect clinton's fund raising to dry up.  maybe.

but then, #3?  voting needs to end?  sure, that's what needs to happen, but how do we get there?  should we all agree to kidnap a member of each family in each remaining primary state and threaten them with violence unless their siblings and parents refuse to vote?

and while we're at it, wars need to end, too, and that's how peace will be achieved.

i bring this up only because of what chris himself said in the opening paragraph:  

once we figure out why the campaign is continuing, we can then work to remove those causes and actually bring the campaign to an end.

tell me how to work to end the voting, and i'll shut up.  or, at least, i won't be so snarky.

[ Parent ]
its continuing because of the Clintons power (4.00 / 5)
any other candidate would have been booted to the curb by now by the Democratic party leadership. but Bill Clinton has a lot of power, and until Obama, was the only face of the Dem party.  So the party is waiting for a good time to boot them without alienating Bill Clinton because they still want his help going forward. This is the source of tension. Nothing else matters.

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

Clintons as a whole (4.00 / 2)
I think Hillary is a powerful force herself and the two of them are the first and second most powerful political bosses in the party at the national level.  No one remembers friends (and enemies) and doles out favors (and calls them in) more effectively then these two.  All this talk by Mike and others of "loyalty" being one of the best of the Clintons qualities misses the point.  Loyalty is just a word we use to describe the ability of the more powerful to get others to act as they wish and serve their interests.  Loyalty isn't good or bad- depends on to whom one is being loyal to and what interests they ultimately serve.  The Bushes are probably the only political family that value loyalty more than the Clintons, which should probably lead one to think twice before touting it as an end unto itself.  And I'm not bashing Mike here- I think he is a real asset to the netroots and admire his courage.  

What we need is more exposure of the "hidden networks" of how the Clintons actually wield their power to serve their interests even at the expense of the party and the national as a whole.  Its a complicated story to tell though so its no surprise the media stays away from it, notwithstanding the retaliation the Clintons could bring.  

Also, I'm not implying Obama doesn't have his power networks either- he does (or rather, he will for sure if he wins).  But real leaders take these narrow short term power relationships and use them to do long term good.  The Clintons never quite got to that point or got lost along the way.  That's why its getting so ugly right now.  

[ Parent ]
As I note (0.00 / 0)
below, I think the race ends when by her own terms she has lost.  

In that sense the popular vote will, I think, play a significant role in ending the contest.

if she loses it, then the popular vote won't matter (4.00 / 2)
Except we've already heard Wolfson say the popular vote wouldn't be dispositive. Judging by the campaign's statements, it would appear there is no criterion which would deter them from going to the convention floor even if Obama on paper had enough pledged + superdelegates to be the nominee because after all any delegate is allowed to vote his/her conscience. I expect that's just tough talk in reality and she'll drop out in June when there are no more primaries and the uncommitted superdelegates announce for Obama though.

[ Parent ]
One definitive criterion: loss of supers (4.00 / 4)
Barring huge victories in PA, IN and a couple of other states,which I find unlikely, Hillary can either leave on her own terms or watch the supers go to Obama in May and June, handing her a defeat.

That is the prospect that faces her if she wins PA by less than 10%.

Other comments upthread are correct--she isn't raising money that can be used in the primaries; her donor base is too small and too tapped out.  She is essentially padding her FEC reports.

Obama has stopped the debates and we need to stop talking about Hillary starting tomorrow and concentrate on McCain and Congress.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Funding (4.00 / 2)
Her funding pretty much has dried up, from what I can see. She ran out of money shortly after Super Tuesday, and she's already back in the red. Meanwhile, Obama's raking it in. A narrow victory (or loss) in PA will really stop the money flow.

Offer the superdelagates a new patronage network (4.00 / 4)
I believe Stoller brought this up awhile ago, but I could be wrong.  Basically, what's keeping the Clinton campaign afloat, despite the fact that they are losing by any measure, is that there over three hundred supers out there who won't budge.  I think we oversimplify it when we say they are just being political creatures and waiting to see how this plays out.  More accurate I think, is to think of this in the common lexicon of mafia and crime bosses, not as an indictment of the Clinton gang, but because its a useful way to discuss and analyze power structures in ways our political discourse doesn't readily allow.  

The current undeclared supers are currently operating under a not so subtle threat from the Clinton campaign that is equal parts tied into past loyalty and future retaliation.  Almost all of the undeclared came up and acquired their little shred of power in a time when the Clintons have been the most powerful democratic bosses at the national level (roughly the last 15 years, a lifetime in politics).  They are tied into Clinton power networks, either directly or indirectly.  Thus they are no more independent actors free to support who they chose, then the neighbor who witnesses a mob killing is able to report what they saw to the police.  Both the scared neighbor and the undecided superdelegate must sit on their hands, in no way supporting the destructing happening all around them, but ironically, it is not in their near -term interest to try to do anything about it.

Suffice to say, all this is simpler I think than Chris is making it.  The Clintons are around because they are powerful and they have the power to stay in the race until that power is preceived to be diminished.  The superdelagates themselves will be able to flesh out when that point is reached much better than we can.  

As far as what we can do, we can merely continue to support leaders who wish to be part of our power networks, such as Donna Edwards, not just at the national level, but the local level as well.  This will show the undecided supers that there is an alternative to the Clintons- which they can embrace or risk losing power.  

my point exactly (0.00 / 0)
this is totally it, its much simpler than all the math and media blaming etc.  

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

[ Parent ]
I disagree with your third bullet (4.00 / 3)
As I said in the last thread on this, I think this will end on May 7.

In addition to thinking of what will convince Hillary to withdraw, we need to think in terms of when the supers will make their move in big numbers. Once they commit in large numbers, Hillary will be forced to concede if only to retain the Clinton brand and/or not to incur serious anger as we go forward.

Supers need the cover of something momentous for Obama to commit in large numbers, as wlell as a good, political time to do so (remember, had he won TX, they were purportedly prepared to do so then). Which is why I think sometime after May 6 is likely--certainly before May 13. And if Obama, by some stroke of luck, wins tomorrow, it'll happen in the next week.

That's because 1) Dean has made it clear HE wants the supers to commit (and from the sounds of the NC debate announcement, it sounds like the DNC refused to sanction anymore debates, after seeing last Wednesday's), 2) if the supers don't commit before May 13, then the campaign will go through late June, and no one wants that at this point, and 3) Obama almost certainly will have a big win on May 6, not least because Hillary's expenditures are going to continue to shrink compared to his, which makes an IN win more likely.

I think on May 7th it will become clearer (4.00 / 1)
Right now I think Obama will win Indiana by around the same margin that Clinton will win Pennsylvania. All indications are that North Carolina will be somewhat of a blowout.

I think by May 7th Obama will have a lead in super delegates. He will still be raising huge sums of money and Clinton will still be in the red. At that point I think it will become clear to even her that she isn't going to win. However I sadly don't see her going out on a high note after West Virgina or Kentucky. I think she will fight until the end. In that time she will decide what she wants and get it from Obama. If she wants to be VP it is hers. I don't think that will be the case. Reid will offer her Majority Leader. She might take that. She may decide to run for Governor of New York or just retire from electoral politics or continue in her role as Senator from New York.

The Clinton's will also probably get promises for some appointments of Clintonites in the White House. Then on June 3rd after blowouts in Montana and South Dakota Clinton will drop out and endorse Obama.

I wish she would drop out tomorow. But it's not going to happen. I think the nearest realistic date in May 6. But I think she will wait until early June.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

They shouldn't offer her anything (4.00 / 5)
VP? Majority Leader? Clintonite appointments? I'm sorry, but after the way Clinton has run her campaign, she shouldn't be offered squat.  Winners take all, it's up to the losers to make nice and hope for goodies down the road.

I don't want her baggage or her creepy staff weighing down Obama's ticket. Nor do I want her type of politics leading us in the Senate. Can you imagine how easy it would be for Republicans to demonize the Clinton senate, thus pushing their members to filibuster everything. And forget the Republicans for a second. Even I, longtime Clinton supporter, don't want her anywhere near the levers of power anymore. Not after she said McCain would be a better CiC than Obama.

Hillary can stick to being a mid-range Senator. That's it. We don't need to offer her anything, because Obama is gonna win this one way or another.

[ Parent ]
Personally (4.00 / 4)
I'd prefer to have Clinton leave electoral politics entirely after this, and absolutely do not want to see her as VP or Majority Leader.  If she retained such a position of her power, I think far too many people would be loyal to her in a way that shouldn't really be the case for those positions - a quasi-shadow presidency.  

I also have very little faith that she wouldn't use every opportunity she could to undermine an Obama presidency, especially as Majority Leader.  If we really want things to happen legislatively, we need to have unwavering Obama loyalists as VP, Majority Leader, Speaker, etc.  I know that doesn't sound particularly awesome in a small d democratic manner, but the history of infights between Presidents and their VPs/Majority Leaders is too extensive to ignore.  There would be an explosion of 'unnamed Democratic sources,' if you know what I mean.  As powerful as a President is, they cannot force legislation to pass, and HRC as Majority Leader has enormous potential for a destructive alternative power base in Washington.  

[ Parent ]
Why would Reid give her Majority leader? (0.00 / 0)
I mean, just practically speaking... why would Reid give up his position for Clinton?  I don't see that happening.

If Clinton wants Majority Leader, she'll, again, have to wage an internal Senate war and get the votes from her colleagues when the new congress is in session.

[ Parent ]
He's not going to offer her VP (0.00 / 0)
And I doubt she'd take it anyway. There's real bad blood there.  Better for her to try for Senate majority leader or Gov of NY. I don't think he has to offer her anything.  She said she'd support the ticket, and I'd expect her to.

I think it's over sometime soon after IN/NC.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Good Article. (0.00 / 0)
The meat is of course not in things `we` can do, but the obvious point to the Obama campaign.

"Stop Acting Like There is a Contest!"

....be kind and forgiving and generous and busy finding solutions to our nations problems. Hold a conference on the democratic reforms our electoral system needs, a high level set of discussions on repairing the savings and loans system for American home owners, hold town-hall meetings on the shared goals of every American, build the consensus leading up to the election.

But stop pretending that HRC has any chance at all. I do not not mean being aloof or elitist, lol. But being respectful of a power in the Democratic Party, a long time contributer to our shared progressive agenda is not pretending she has a chance to win.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

Easier said than done (4.00 / 2)
I agree on the no-debates thing, but it's hard to stop attacking or responding to Clinton altogether. I mean, the Clinton team will continue putting out hit pieces on Obama -- and he's supposed to do nothing?

Sorry, but I like the counterpunch of Obama better. I don't want him looking like "Obambi", afraid to fight back or defend himself. I view this as good training for the general election, and Obama is getting better at it every day.

I do think Obama should put more emphasis on McCain, and he could maybe stop saying Hillary's name. But he can't go totally silent when it comes to defending himself against her outrageous attacks.

#2 and #3 are directly at odds (4.00 / 1)
It looks like a race if Obama has to keep fighting her.  But if he doesn't do that, he won't be able to win his states or cut into the lead in the ones favorable to her.  

The short of this is that there is zero chance this ends until Obama wins a significant victory.  At that point, the potential for a narrative that closes the door for good will be there.  I think the important thing is laying the groundwork of "she has to prove she can cut his North Carolina lead" or ""Indiana is do-or-die for Clinton" and so on.

But ultimately, the strangeness of this whole process means that as long as 40+ percent of people in upcoming primaries want to vote for Clinton, and as long as she wants to stay in it, that is sufficient.    

NC Debate Cancelled (0.00 / 0)
According to Marc Ambinder, Obama's camp refused to debate, so the NC debate has been cancelled:


Super Delegates, plain and simple. (0.00 / 0)
I suppose you're reflecting the reasons why the Super Delegates won't end the race, but the simple fact remains that if all the Super Delegates declared, the race would either be over or we'd know that we need to see the rest of the results.

The lesson we should learn from this is that Super Delegates need to go out the window for the next primary.  I'm not sure how we'd affect this change, but it's clear that if Super Delegates didn't exist, this campaign would be over already.  For reference, see the Republican primary.  You think it would've ended as quickly if there were another 400-500 Super Delegates out there (I believe that's roughly proportional with their total number of delegates) that could simply overturn the voters will?  Obviously, McCain built up a greater lead, but I doubt Huckabee would've been so easily dismissed by the media had their been an extra 500 delegates he could point to that could make up his margin (and this could've potentially affected the races, as the Super Delegates are affecting the Democratic races now).

GOP has winner take all in most states (0.00 / 0)
That's why their primary ended sooner.  It magnifies the effect of each vitory, while Obama couldn't put Hillary away and vice versa because of proportional representation.  I'm not sure I'd do aweay with PR, but Maybe do it differently, with more at-large delelgates on a winner-take-all basis.  And fewer supers.  I is a rule change, and the next pres will have a big impact on the rules.   Also the DNC chai.  Dean may stay under Obama; certainly not under Clinton.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
in fact (0.00 / 0)
if Dem's had winner-take-all, Clinton would lead by 175 pledged delegates (without including FL and MI): her big-state strategy would have made perfect sense.

[ Parent ]
Except (4.00 / 2)
If the Dems had winner-take-all, Obama would have followed a different strategy, so who knows where we'd be.

And what would happen to the Clinton argument about the popular vote if she was ahead that far in delegates while she trailed in the popular vote?

[ Parent ]
No winner-take-all (0.00 / 0)
Winner-take-all, as we've seen in the general with the Electoral College, makes it much more likely that someone can win the delegate count while losing the popular vote, especially if there are lots of candidates. McCain didn't even come close to getting a majority in some of those states he won. The problem exists even if you use winner-take-all only for the at-large delegates.

When voters are close to evenly split, then you should have a close race. This is the first time we've had this happen under the current system, and there's no reason to believe it'll happen again any time soon. And even if we switched to winner-take-all something similar could happen if the Democratic voters were similarly divided.

[ Parent ]
Yes, it should be close... (0.00 / 0)
And it is... but the fact is, it's not close enough for Hillary to close the gap through elections... she needs Super Delegates to overturn the results, which makes zero sense as far as how the primary SHOULD work.  If there were no super-delegates, this would be a done deal.

[ Parent ]
That's one reason... (0.00 / 0)
But when Huckabee was just a couple hundred delegates behind McCain, he could've just pointed to the Super Delegates as his way to win... As it was, it looked extremely difficult for him to overcome his deficit and he was dismissed by the media, resulting in an even more difficult obstacle for him to climb.  Had he been given "fair" media treatment because it actually looked like he could still win through Super Delegate coup, other races may have been closer.  Who really knows.

[ Parent ]
MI uncommitteds (0.00 / 0)
the 55 "uncommitted" delegates for Michigan (all but one of which now appear to actually be Obama delegates)

It's only the 36 district-level uncommitted delegates who have been chosen so far, I believe. The 19 at-large uncommitteds won't be chosen for a while.

There's another way out. (0.00 / 0)
The superdelegates can end this.  If Obama can get a fifty percent split of eligible superdeletes (that would mean about 160 more superdelegates endorsing him), then the only contest remaining is pledged delegates, and the news media know how to count and calculate that.

Hillary could then try to keep things alive by claiming that pledged delegates aren't really pledged, and superdelegates could change their mind at the last minute at the convention.  But it would sound much more quixotic at that point.

The magic number is approaching soon, 1627 pledged delegates for Obama.  Obama and surrogates should be raising the suspense level about when that number will be achieved.  True, there is nothing binding about it, but it is enormously important psychologically, it's a target number people can understand, it provides another exciting horse-race narrative for the media to pursue ("will he make it tonight?"), and it also will be the trigger for a significant number of endorsements and superdelegates to fall into Obama's lap who are waiting for that magic number themselves.  Including Nancy Pelosi and her coalition.


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