Oregon and Kentucky Primaries Postmortem

Obama WIns Oregon Primary Photo As widely expected, Hillary Clinton won the Kentucky primary while Barack Obama took Oregon and passed the majority mark for all pledged delegates. Indeed, because of the bizarre delegate allocation process, Obama passed that threshold in Kentucky despite losing there by 35 points.

Clinton can take some small comfort from having won 5 of the last 7 primaries. But it’s a hollow confidence; Obama continues to move further ahead in both pledged and unpledged delegates.

The only one that doesn’t know that Obama is going to be the nominee, apparently, is Hillary Clinton.

Clinton insists she still sees a path to the nomination by winning over the party leaders and elected officials known as superdelegates, whose support will be needed for either candidate to be clinch the nomination.

“Neither Senator Obama nor I will have reached that magic number when the voting ends on June 3,” she said Tuesday night in Kentucky. “And so, our party will have a tough choice to make — who’s ready to lead our party at the top of our ticket, who is ready to defeat Senator McCain in the swing states and among swing voters.”

She also continued to insist that Michigan and Florida Democrats deserve to have their votes counted, a reference to the lingering controversy surrounding primaries in both states held in defiance of Democratic National Committee rules.

If nothing else, she thinks she can gain some leverage by fighting on.

Mrs. Clinton is also focused on some tangible goals by staying in the race: she believes that racking up more victories, delegates and votes will give her and her supporters more leverage this month at a Democratic National Committee rules meeting to advocate for seating the delegates from the unofficial primaries in Florida and Michigan.


Mrs. Clinton’s advisers also say that her popularity could lead Mr. Obama to fold some of her policy positions — like universal health insurance — into his platform, though they discounted the notion that her staying in the race was part of a larger bargaining strategy.

While Mrs. Clinton believes that winning the nomination is a long shot at this point, she is also staying in the race because, in her experience, electoral politics can be a chaotic and unpredictable enterprise, scandals can emerge from nowhere, and Mr. Obama’s candidacy could still suffer a self-inflicted or unexpected wound. Picking up more primary votes and superdelegates could only strengthen her position if the party wants or needs to find an alternative to Mr. Obama.

That’s all true. Clinton is losing but by a very small margin. Obama has to play nice for fear that she’ll be halfhearted in backing him in the Fall.

They could end this thing pretty quickly if the superdelegates choose to back Obama in droves. Which has Marc Ambinder wondering why they haven’t already done it. His theory:

Many of those superdelegates are from districts and states that Clinton won, but they haven’t endorsed her — more so than there are undeclared superdelegates from Obama districts who haven’t endorsed him. The undeclared superdelegates haven’t endorsed Clinton..why? Probably because they don’t want to, and they’re waiting until Obama reaches the magic number of 2026, so they won’t have to. Many of them are dealing with the reality of delegate math, which all but guarantees that Obama is going to be the winner, and the reality that the voters in their districts and states have chosen differently; they’re not going to alienate the nominee of the party, and they’re not going to alienate the voters in their district. So they’re going to wait.

One suspects that Obama’s having gone over the magic pledged delegate threshold will help. The primaries will be over by June 3rd, anyway, with only Puerto Rico (63 delegates), Montana (24) and South Dakota (23) left to go. Clinton could win all of them and it won’t be enough to make a difference.

But she can continue to hope for something bad to happen to Obama. And she’ll likely continue to do just that so long as she can get away with it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. rodney dill says:

    Clinton is addicted to the ‘Sally Field’s Syndrome’ (“You like me… you really like me…”) when she wins these later primaries even though the results are meaningless in the overall.

  2. Bithead says:

    Well, in terms of winning the White House, perhaps. But in terms of power within the party? And in terms of chips to use during an Obama Presidency? Oh, yeah.

    Say it with me, now: Surpeme Court Justice William Jefferson Clinton.

  3. rodney dill says:

    Say it with me, now: Supreme Court Justice William Jefferson Clinton.


    “Good, I knew you could”

  4. But she can continue to hope for something bad to happen to Obama.

    Kind of like she and Senator Obama can continue to hope for something bad to happen to the United States in Iraq, with the economy, oil prices, etc…

  5. An Interested Party says:

    Kind of like she and Senator Obama can continue to hope for something bad to happen to the United States in Iraq, with the economy, oil prices, etc…

    Kind of like Republicans continuing to scare people about terrorism in the hopes of winning elections…

  6. Cool, terrorism is over. Who knew?

  7. legion says:

    Is that a comment on Bithead, or an incredibly obscure Bloom County reference?

    I would applaud either 🙂

    I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again, the only thing Clinton gains by sticking it out until the bitter end is that if Obama loses in November, she thinks she’ll be positioned to “rescue” the Dems and the country in 2012. She is delusional – if Obama loses and she is really perceived as the reason for McCain winning “Bush’s third term”, Joe Lieberman will have a better chance of getting the Dem nomination next cycle. If there’s still a country to be president of…

  8. An Interested Party says:

    No one ever claimed terrorism was over…but, obviously, neither is fear-mongering, nor silly little ideas like Clinton and Obama “hoping” something bad happens in Iraq, or with the economy and oil prices…in fact, such things are already the case, so no one hardly needs to “hope” for such scenarios …

  9. rodney dill says:

    More a comment on Bill as a Supreme, but it is an old Bloom County reference. I’m glad someone caught it.