It’s a Storybook, Man
Barack Obama has ostensibly* passed the magic number of delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. The media have declared him the winner. He’s declared himself the nominee. Hillary Clinton hasn’t acknowledged either reality, yet, but seems resigned to it.
Obama Claims Victory
Sen. Barack Obama achieved the 2,118 needed to clinch the Democratic nomination for president last night and made history by becoming the first African American to win a major party’s presidential nomination, according to the ABC News scorecard.
The presumptive Democratic nominee locked up the nomination even before the votes were counted in the party’s final two primaries in South Dakota and Montana last night. Obama went on to easily win Montana last night by a margin of 57 percent to Sent. Hillary Clinton’s 42 percent. But Clinton, D-NY, snatched one last upset victory in South Dakota, with a 55-44 percent win. Nevertheless, Obama picked up enough delegates from those states to pad his margin of victory and was expected see additional superdelegates rally to his side today.
Making history by becoming the nation’s first African-American presidential nominee, Obama, D-Ill., emerges victorious from one of the longest and most closely fought Democratic nomination fights in recent history.
“Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Because of you, tonight I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States,” Obama told cheering supporters at an arena in St. Paul, Minn.
He graciously praised Clinton, despite the sometimes bitter exchanges the two had during the campaign. “Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign, not just because she’s a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she’s a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight,” Obama said. “Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete” with her, he said.
Were I a lit major, I’d find lots of symbolism in this:
Later, the candidates played some phone tag, ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports. A little after 11 pm, Obama left Clinton a message on an aide’s cell phone, congratulating Clinton on her South Dakota win and asking that she return the call. ABC’s Eloise Harper reports that some time later, Clinton returned Obama’s call. The two spoke very briefly and then the cell phone call dropped out. Clinton called him back and got his voice mail.
Clinton Keeping Options Open
For her part, Clinton refused to concede the race tonight. “This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight,” she told supporters in New York.
She does her best decision-making at 3 a.m., as we all know.
“In the coming days, I’ll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way,” she said as supporters chanted “Denver, Denver!” pointing to the party’s convention in August.
Bringing the Party Back Together
Divisive as this race has been, mostly because Clinton continued a scorched earth campaign months after it was all but certain that Obama would prevail, I continue to believe that most Democrats will rally behind their nominee. It’s going to be a long five months to Election Day.
Still, let’s just say that white, religious folk in Appalachia aren’t the only ones who are bitter. Armando, one of the blogosphere’s most die-hard Clinton supporters, has graciously thrown in the towel. His commenters? Not so much.
More so than getting the Clintonistas on board, Obama’s biggest problem may be ridiculously high expectations. Sober journalists are asking questions like, “Can Obama make [the] American dream come true?” That’s a bit much to ask, methinks.
On the the General Election
Barack Obama is ever-so-slightly ahead in the national head-to-head polls with John McCain and should get a big bounce from last night. Barring major developments, that lead will grow as Hillary supporters make their way through the stages of grief and reach Acceptance.
Clinton’s dogged campaign provides something of a roadmap for Team McCain. Certainly, she’s provided plenty of footage for Republican television spots. It may well be that the weak points Clinton identified, which didn’t quite work with a Democratic nominating electorate, will go over better in a general election campaign.
It’s worth noting, too, that Clinton continued to win states right up until the last night despite the media having (rightfully) declared her campaign dead weeks ago. For all his oratorical skill, he’s a flawed candidate.
So, of course, is McCain. McCain publicly admitted that he would be too old to run for president in 2008 and yet here he is. The contrasts with the young, vigorous Obama will be stark. And any Democrat would be favored over any Republican this year, given the unpopularity of President Bush and the Iraq War. High gas and food prices, while having virtually nothing to do with Bush, let alone McCain, will also make things harder.
Still, McCain has a puncher’s chance. He’s not the orator Obama is but he’s good in debates and in front of crowds. His geezerly fifty years of public service is an asset as well as a liability. He’s got five months to convince people that he’s the better choice.
*I have no doubt that Obama will win this thing and should win it given that he is ahead by any reasonable, objective measure. I merely note that, while Obama is leading Clinton among pledged delegates with no more contests remaining, he is only past the 2118 threshold by virtue of the inclusion of 394 superdelegates whose promise to vote for Obama is absolutely unbinding. Indeed, a handful of that number had previously pledged to vote for Clinton.