Wednesday, May 7, 05:58 am PDT – What Do The Clintons Do Now?
So what do the Clintons do now? Barack Obama did better than I expected, not just winning North Carolina in an exhibition of forward-leaning limping, but in the thunderous fashion I said at the beginning of the week that he would not. Obama crushed Clinton in the last big state left in the nomination contest, 56.2% to 41.5%. His 15-point win in the Tarheel State more than made up the number of votes Hillary made up two weeks ago with her 9-point win in Pennsylvania. There is now no way that she can catch Obama in the popular vote. Incidentally, the popular vote count used by the media oddly does not include any of the caucus states, which have all seen record turnouts. When you factor them in, Obama is well over a million votes ahead of Clinton.
Clinton did manage to finish narrowly ahead of Obama in Indiana, where most, including me, expected her to have a much bigger margin than the 20,000 votes it has turned out to be. But even that is not especially good news for her.
Sophisticated Democrats I spoke with last night regard Indiana as a tainted performance for Clinton. Why? Because conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh promoted his Operation Chaos especially hard with his Indiana listeners. His mischief makers likely more than accounted for Clinton’s margin in the Hoosier State.
In any event, she splits the Indiana delegates with Obama, who won 15 more than Hillary in North Carolina. So, given that twice as many superdelegates have come out for Obama since Pennsylvania as for Hillary — confounding the expectations her campaign set up — she is actually further behind Obama now than she was when she won Pennsylvania.
Clinton can’t catch Obama now. She has to hope for a big disaster to bring him down. But such disasters have already happened. In the form of the Wright Stuff, Bittergate, and last week’s version of the Wright Stuff, in which the man with the outrageous views went on tour. (Don’t expect a big repeat of his performance. The peer pressure on the brother minister, this former black nationalist, to stop torpedoing the only black man in the history of America with a real shot at the presidency is enormous.)
Now it all caused Obama a ton of trouble, not to mention weeks of negative coverage in the round-the-clock infosphere of cable TV, talk radio, and the blogosphere, but in the end, Obama is further ahead now than he was when he got into trouble.
So what next?
I spoke with a couple of friends of the Clintons who have raised millions of dollars for the former president and first lady. I then spoke with a longtime personal friend of Bill, who was not all that thrilled with the discussion. Then I called General Wes Clark, the man these folks identified as a key in settling the situation, who had his cell phone turned off.
Here’s what I’ve learned. The Clinton friends’ networks are tapped out. Clinton’s campaign is broke. Maybe she can raise some more money on the Internet. Meanwhile, Obama’s coffers are overflowing. As I suspected a month ago, the Clintons have gotten themselves caught in a war of attrition. Which they are decidedly losing.
Clinton has a huge campaign debt, more than $15 million. At least $5 million of that, and possibly more now, is to herself and Bill. She is going to need to get most of that debt paid off.
None of the Clinton friends I talked to expects the remaining undeclared superdelegates to break for Clinton and hand her the nomination. Hopefully after a good night’s sleep, the Clintons will be assessing her options.
Does she continue her candidacy? If so, in what mode? She’ll win in Appalachia, next week in West Virginia and the following week in Kentucky. She’ll lose in two weeks in Oregon. So she could go out on an up note, in which she nonetheless loses in the largest state remaining.
Would she want to go on the ticket? Perhaps. But the antipathy between the camps is high, and no one thinks the former president is going to become easier to deal with. Someone who could bridge the gap is another big Clinton backer, former NATO Commander Wesley Clark. The retired four-star general was first in his class at West Point, won the Silver Star in the Vietnam War as an infantry company commander, led NATO in the successful Kosovo War that led to the political demise of Slobodan Milosevic.
Clark was vetted when he ran for president, not all that successfully, four years ago, when he won only the Oklahoma primary. But running for president is hard to do, as more than a few candidates in both parties learned in this campaign. Having done it gives Clark valuable experience.
But there will be plenty of time for that sort of speculation. This is a very interesting day coming up in Clintonland.
9:36 PDT – While We Wait, Think The Obama Party
So, while we wait for the final numbers in Indiana, folks, it is time to start thinking about the Obama-led Democratic Party.
I spoke to a few longtime friends of the Clintons earlier today, who have between them raised millions of dollars for the former president and first lady.
It’s not happening for Hillary, despite all the breaks she has gotten of late.
The real questions left — after she wins the Appalachian states and gets hammered in Oregon two weeks from tonight — are what the Clintons want.
The Clintons, as it happens, are not actually all that popular in the Democratic Party. This is a fact lost on some of Hillary’s brand-new boosters on the right. Who, naturally, know very little about the Democrats.
That’s because the Democratic Party did poorly during the Clinton Presidency.
Now we’re getting to discussion of end games.
Should Hillary go on the ticket? Should it be somewhat else associated with the Clintons? Such as, for example, former NATO Commander Wes Clark?
Or do you go with another war hero, who happens to despise Bill Clinton, former Reagan-era Navy Secretary and new Virginia Senator Jim Webb, the most highly decorated Marine combat officer in the Vietnam War?
Much to discuss in a little while …
9:06 PDT – Clinton Cancels TV Appearances
Hillary Clinton has just cancelled her scheduled appearances on all of tomorrow morning’s network TV shows.
The former first lady will be huddling with her husband, the former president, top advisors, and various superdelegates to discuss her campaign.
Meanwhile, her margin in Indiana is smaller and smaller.
If she does manage to finish first there, it may well be due to Rush Limbaugh’s highly mischievous Operation Chaos.
8:30 PDT – McCain Insight In Works
Incidentally, as we wait to see if Hillary Clinton hangs on in Indiana in the wake of Barack Obama’s big win in North Carolina, I’ll be doing another PJ Media presidential insiders interview in a few days with Senator John McCain’s senior advisor, Steve Schmidt.
We’ll probably shoot the interview in his home.
Schmidt, in addition to his role with McCain since the beginning of this presidential race, was the campaign manager for my decades-long acquaintance Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger when he won his landslide victory over liberal Democrat Phil Angelides in 2006.
Prior to that, he worked in the White House as the counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney. In that capacity, Steve went to Baghdad to shore up the dysfunctional US communications operation there, and went on to shepherd the US Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts and Sam Alito through the Senate.
He also ran the war room in the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign.
5:40 PDT – My Guess
I own property a few miles from the Oregon border. It is very picturesque there.
I suspect that Barack Obama essentially wraps up the Democratic presidential nomination when he wins the Oregon primary in a couple of weeks.
Of course, I could be wrong.
It might take some weeks more.
After all, I predicted that Obama would win Iowa over Clinton. (Who finished third, behind the now forgotten John Edwards.)
But I also predicted that Clinton would lose New Hampshire. Which she did not, amidst the kitchen sink strategy developed by former President Bill Clinton.
5:10 PDT – Big Obama Win In North Carolina, Too Close To Call In Indiana
Okay. Exit polls. So, a solid win for Barack Obama in North Carolina. Too close to call in Indiana. I expect, as you know, and can tell from the latest tallies, that Hillary Clinton pulls out a win in Indiana, following the latest excursion of the Wright Stuff — and I strongly suspect that the black community will have something to say to the brother minister — which means very little indeed.
There is nothing happening today that changes the frontrunnership of Barack Obama.
So it appears that we are where we are when I when I wrote about this very late Sunday night. Obama has the very decided edge, whether his Obama Derangement Syndrome antagonists like it or not.
JUST as was the case a few months ago on the Republican side.
When I told you that it was John McCain or nothing.
3:50 PDT – And the Exit Polls
At this hour, Hillary Clinton by 6 points in Indiana. Barack Obama by 13 points in North Carolina.
For your information, I was just bickering with my source about the modeling and what they mean.
I think their black turnout model is too low in North Carolina. I suspect they are not taking into account a drop-off in white votes for Obama.
Be all that as it may, Obama wins North Carolina. Clinton wins Indiana.
The Democratic gong show continues.
Clinton can’t win. Obama can’t definitively put us all out of our misery this month and move on to the bigger picture — and the big isssues which engage America’s future — against John McCain.
3:01 PDT – About Exit Polls
Okay, folks, I may or may not have some confidential exit poll numbers.
But here is my observation about the early exit polls. Having reported them for some months now.
They are simply not to be trusted when they involve a black man running in a more conservative state.
Here is my observation.
In the center to center-left states, with the notable exception of New Hampshire, the exit polls have been relatively accurate with regard to races involving Barack Obama.
The races on the Republican side, which obviously include only white male candidates, the exits have been largely inaccurate.
But on the Democratic side, as Borat would put it, “not so much.”
In part, I believe this is due to young guys in hoodies asking people how they voted.
In part, it is due to people lying about how they voted in elections involving a black man.
This is a phenomenon called the “Bradley effect,” dating back to 1982. In that election, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the very inoffensive Democratic candidate for Governor of California — who had spent most of his adult career not as a Black Panther, but as a decorated member of the Los Angeles Police Department — was the clear frontrunner going into the final weekend of the election.
As, essentially, the sole member of Mayor Bradley’s opposition research department, at the age of 4, naturally, I informed him that his Republican opponent was a member of a whites-only private club. The late mayor decided, since he was clearly (haha) headed to victory, not to make an issue of this.
The exit polls, by the supposed California gold standard Field Poll, showed him winning by a landslide 10 points. Yet Brother Bradley lost in the actual count by a few points.
This has since become known as the Bradley Effect. (Not referring, of course, to my telling a politician he should knock his opponent down with a devastating piece of information, but to a black candidate seeing his numbers inflated beyond the racism uncaptured in an exit poll.)
12:02 PDT – Limbaugh Pumps Up Operation Chaos in the Democratic Primaries
Right-wing entertainer and pundit Rush Limbaugh on his show this morning pumped up his Operation Chaos scheme in today’s Democratic primaries.
Limbaugh, who had notably little success in his quest to destroy John McCain’s candidacy in the Republican primaries, says he is having a lot more success in getting his mischievous listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
Not because he and the other folks on the far right touting Hillary, their long-hated bête noire, are actually for her but because they want to screw up the Democratic Party and its likely nominee, Barack Obama.
John McCain, who has yet to bother to appear on Limbaugh’s daily show, is happy for the bank shot support…
11:22 PDT – Who’s Behind Those Foster Grants?
Meanwhile, as the Democratic duke-a-roo drags on, some of my New West Notes folks have wondered about the sunglasses sported by John McCain.
They are not the expected vet’s Ray-Bans. (Which I wear during workouts.)
They look like pilot’s shades. Well, actually, McCain is not a pilot, he is a naval aviator.
We’ll get into Navy culture, tradition, and the meaning of the Vietnam War hero’s recent, and very important speech at Annapolis — which went remarkably undercovered — in a future column.
10:02 PDT – From North Carolina
Bob Owens, the Confederate Yankee, who tells me he expects Barack Obama to win the Tarheel State over Hillary Clinton by around nine points, reports in:
I just got off the phone with Mike Ash, Director of the Durham County Board of Elections in Durham, NC. He doesn’t have any numbers as far as percentages of eligible voters making it to the polls at this point, but said several polling locations have already hit record numbers. That is as of 11:30 AM. It appears that the record turnout in early voting on Sunday is expected to continue through today.
This matters because Durham is something of a bellwether of African-American voter turn-out in North Carolina. A high African-American turnout-and it appears that is indeed occurring-makes a Clinton win impossible.
At this point, the only thing worth discussing is Obama’s margin of victory here in the Tarheel State. If he wins by double-digits, he can claim to have staunched the bleeding over Crackerquiddick and the damage done to him by his pastor of 20 years, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
If Obama only wins by 5-8 points however, it will be viewed as the sign of a faltering, damaged campaign.
Update: Turnout in Wake County has been varied, according to Wake County Board of Elections Director Cherie Poucher. There were significant lines at some precincts as polls opened this morning, while at other polling places, traffic has merely been steady. Turnout is higher than it would be for a normal primary, but it is too early to know if we’re looking at record numbers. We should know more by approximately 3:00 PM.
If hinted-at trends continue, Barack Obama’s victory here in North Carolina could be significant.
09:33 PDT – From the Hoosier State
Correspondent Ari Kaufman reports in from Indiana:
At my local polling place in downtown Indianapolis, where the district is about 70% Democratic and mostly Obama supporters, there were folks quietly outside with their signs for the Illinois Senator, easily outnumbering Hillary’s few signs.
Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” was seen by a friend of mine (or so he assumed) on the south side of Indy, as folks were encouraging a Hillary vote for the independent, cross over conservatives and undecided.
Indiana is going to be really fascinating and important. While, despite her recent surge, all accounts still show Hillary should fall in NC, Indiana has been a toss up for weeks….with, depending upon the poll you cite, one candidate up over the other ever so slightly.
Obama’s rally in downtown’s Historic District last evening drew over 20,000. Friends of mine in the vicinity noted that it was raucous, though lacked substance, and really relied upon emotion, cheers, signs, music, etc. While it was an impressive turnout, there was a paucity of collegians, perhaps due to finals ending at most local schools last week. One wonders how many of them are still in town—or registered in Indiana—to vote for Obama (or Hillary).
08:49 PDT – Game Day
Once more unto the breech.
It is yet another Game Day, in the Presidential primary contest that was supposed to have ended three months ago. Today, with the twice declared politically dead (last year) John McCain looking on with an understandable glee, it’s North Carolina and Indiana for the Democrats.
The polls are sliding around in both states, but there is a consistency with each. Clinton leads in Indiana. Obama leads in North Carolina.
Prior to the latest disaster-from-the left suffered by Obama — his own former black nationalist minister deciding to put two torpedoes below the waterline into the hull of the only black candidate to come within hailing distance of the White House — today was shaping up as mopping up exercise for the freshman Illinois senator. A big win in North Carolina and a coup de grace for the former first lady (and the fabled Clinton machine) in Indiana.
Now Obama is scrambling to hang on in North Carolina and avoid a big loss in Indiana.
While a key McCain campaign source says he can see a possible Hillary win in North Carolina today, as well as in Indiana — and wouldn’t that be a further stroke of luck for the maverick Western senator? — the polls and the atmospherics suggest something else. It looks as though the limping Obama juggernaut will end up on top tonight in North Carolina. And as though Hillary Clinton — not so long ago the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton — takes advantage of the latest Wright Stuff to pull out a win in Indiana.
The spin, by the way, is extremely thick. Here the Clintons try to spin away earlier predictions by, well, themselves, that she can North Carolina by predicting, late last night, a 15-point loss to Obama in North Carolina. Let’s see. One of my McCain guys says she might win there. She now says she will lose worse there than in any other big state. Hmm…
Here’s where they are today.
Barack Obama holds an election night party in the big arena at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Hillary Clinton has an election night party at the rather smaller Egyptian Room in Indianapolis.
Bill Clinton is still campaigning away — whatever happened to that above-the-fray global statesman thing he had going? — across North Carolina. On election day, with his wife trailing. He hits Huntersville, Lexington, Winston-Salem, and Durham.
John McCain appears in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Notice that Republican nominee McCain is in the same state as Democratic frontrunner Obama.
Working with bloggers and others, I’ll have coverage throughout the day and the evening of this latest, 15th, actually, game day.