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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Chris Bowers:

So, please correct me if I am missing something, but if a shift of 4-5% and two or three delegates in Indiana and North Carolina is enough to end the Democratic nomination, then why didn’t anyone frakking tell us that the campaign was so close to ending? Why was there this massive kabuki theater pretending that it was still a close campaign where Clinton had a legitimate chance at winning? Why were Clinton’s attacks on Obama repeated again, and again, and again, without anyone mentioning that Clinton was a desperate candidate hanging by a thread who would probably say anything in order to stay afloat?

The reason is simple: the established media was never covering the Democratic nomination campaign. They were, instead, covering some form of kabuki theater where reality is ignored and liberals are ritually gutted on the public stage for the pleasure of elite, rich, white, male pundits everywhere. That is all that we have been watching since the Wisconsin primary, since the delegates have not improved for Clinton since the Wisconsin primary (and have actually gotten much worse, if you include the supers). If we had been watching something else, then tonight would not be the end of the campaign, because nothing really changed tonight. If this is the end, then the last two and a half months have been a Clinton-fueled fairy tale, which is basically a white-hot lie about the nomination campaign. Puns intended in the previous sentence.

I agree with about 98% of what Chris has said here, but let me offer my 2% rebuttal. There is always an intrinsic possibility that a candidate wins by attrition — by something bad happening to the leading candidate (e.g. a scandal — or less likely something more tragic). For example, presently John McCain is attributed as having a 94% chance of winning the Republican nomination by the futures markets. But 94% isn’t 100%. There’s still that small, 6% possibility that some crazy shit will go down that will effectively disqualify McCain from the nomination.

For a long time now, Clinton’s odds of winning the nomination by any means other than attrition have been dwindling. They decreased, rather than increased, after Texas/Ohio, and they decreased after Pennsylvania, because while Clinton made up ground, she did not make up enough ground quickly enough to make up the fact that both candidates were getting closer to the finish line. Those odds were near zero, regardless of what happened in Indiana and North Carolina tonight.

Tonight, however, her odds of winning by attrition have gone down as well, because the results will be interpreted by superdelegates as meaning that neither the Jeremiah Wright issue nor the “bittergate” issue are enough to disqualify Obama from the nomination. Granted, they might never have been enough to disqualify Obama in the first place. But if Clinton had won North Carolina — a state where the intrinsic demographics favor Obama by mid-double digits — that would have been extremely significant. In fact, if she had won North Carolina, I suspect that Clinton would more likely than not have been the Democratic nominee.

What tonight’s results mean is that there will have to be some new inconvenience for Obama of at least Jeremiah Wright magnitude for Clinton to become the nominee. The odds of this happening are not very strong — Clinton is trading off the same 6% chance that people like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are working from. Obama has gotten the job, and Clinton now needs him to get fired from it. With that said, I think she has an extraordinarily strong moral claim** to the Vice Presidential slot if she wants it to be hers.

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** I don’t want to change my original wording, but I’m having trouble articulating myself after a very long night. I’m not entirely comfortable with the language “moral claim”. It’s not quite a moral claim and it’s not quite a political claim — it’s somewhere in between.

There are obviously plusses and minuses to having Clinton as the VP. Demographically, it really is a match made in heaven — look at the states where one of the Democrats is competitive where the other candidate isn’t. Politically, it’s potentially a clusterfuck. Of course the whole question is whether a joint ticket would tend to capture the best attributes of each candidate or the worst ones. And of course, Obama would need to be comfortable that he’d be able to draw boundaries around people like Bill Clinton and Mark Penn.

But my point is that if the decision is close, I think she’s won enough votes that the tie goes to Clinton. Obama would need to have a good reason not to offer the job to her. “She’ll cost us Colorado and Virginia” might be a good reason, but Obama and the DNC would need to look at some polling on that.

Another factor that breaks the tie in my eyes is that Clinton has become quite a strong retail campaigner. She campaigns tirelessly, she does well in interviews and debates, and her events would draw far more people than you’d get with any other VP candidate.

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