Hitting 50 percent, Obama strengthens his case

Today Senator Obama opened up a significant lead in the two daily tracks, Rasmussen and Gallup, hitting 50 percent in each.

Earlier this week I speculated Senator Obama might climb this high, and if he did, his case that he is winning and that Senator Clinton is losing the election would become very persuasive to those remaining superdelegates. Obama is now at 50% in the polls, has won more delegates, votes and states, and has raised more money and has a far superior organization. He appears to be, by all important measures, winning the race for the nomination.

One of the last remaining arguments the Clinton campaign has used is that she has won more important states than Senator Obama. But this argument is not persuasive on many levels. Using Chris Cillizza's analysis of the ten most important swing general states, for example, Obama comes out ahead. Of the ten in his list, Florida is unresolved, Obama has won 5 outright (CO, IA, MN, VA, WI), won the delegates in another (NV) and Senator Clinton has won 3 (NH, NM, OH). Additionally, one of her wins, NM, was essentially a tie. No matter how you cut the "important" states it is hard to argue that Senator Clinton has done better in those states that matter most.

What will the media do if Obama manages to catch and pass Senator Clinton with her last remaining area of strength, the superdelegates? Will and can that happen before the April PA primary? I still maintain these next 5 plus weeks before the April PA primary is a dangerous time for Senator Clinton, one where if the current trends continue, we could see a growing chorus for her to end her campaign.

Sunday Update: While Obama's Sat poll numbers dropped a bit, two stories today reinforce the danger that may await Clinton over these next 5 weeks. A major NYTimes look at the superdelegates reports a growing concern about the the Democratic race continuing, and a powerful desire to end it soon, In the 2nd story, Obama picks up more delegates from CA and IA, increasing his lead and adding to his momentum.

Putting an End to This Superdelegate Silliness

With Barack Obama's ten-state winning streak, and growing pledged delegate lead over Hillary Clinton, we are likely seeing the last gasp of the Clinton campaign in the run-up to the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4th.

If Senator Clinton doesn't win big in Texas and Ohio, the only real question left in this race pertains to the so-called superdelegates.

Will Clinton be able to hold on to the majority of her current superdelegate support, and then try to orchestrate some kind of "superdelegate coup" that would thwart the will of rank-and-file voters--in whatever way you wish to define that term (be it by Congressional district, state or national vote and delegate totals)?

That scenario seems less and less probable by the hour, with her superdelegate supporters slipping away, like so many water-torture drip...drip...drips.

What this whole situation calls for however, is a good hard look at the superdelegate process. At best, during the primary and caucus season, these superdelegates have been a superfluous distraction, confusing all concerned. At worst, the murky superdelegate system is an undemocratic way for Party power-brokers to maneuver behind the scenes--to scoop up PAC money and favors--and to possibly rig our nomination process.

Sorry, superdelegates. It's time that this bad idea meets with its demise. We don't need Super-Democrats coming in to make decisions for us. The people are perfectly capable of electing their own nominee for president.

While there's been much public hand-wringing and uproar about this superdelegate issue in recent weeks, there is only one grassroots project that has people all over the country engaging in a collaborative effort to introduce some sunlight into the shadowy superdelegate system. And, my, how our superdelegate friends have run for cover and made much ado about how they would never thwart the will of the people.

The Superdelegate Transparency Project (STP) began two weeks ago, and currently represents a partnership between my blog, LiteraryOutpost, OpenLeft, DemConWatch, HuffingtonPost and Congresspedia (which is a project of the Center for Media and Democracy and the Sunlight Foundation). Combined, these partners have brought nearly 300 volunteers to STP, folks that are concerned about what effect the superdelegates might have on our Democratic nomination.

These volunteers are putting in time to track down vote totals, district-by-district, along with pledged delegates. Then they are tracking down, interviewing and publishing stories about the superdelegates, recording how they are currently pledged, whether they've switched, and eventually what their vote will be.

A few blasé voices here and there have said we don't need to worry about the superdelegates this time around. But the point is: We should never have to worry about them again.

The Superdelegate Transparency Project, when completed, will provide evidence to make that argument forcefully. No longer will we have to speak in hypotheticals about what superdelegates probably did or didn't do. This time, we'll have a first-ever, complete set of data that tracks the nitty-gritty of superdelegate behavior--district by district.

As the New York Times said, "[STP] is the kind of tool that the back room bosses from 1984 could never have imagined -- and today's political bosses are probably horrified to see."

Rank-and-file Democrats will be able to make the case that early endorsements and pledges from superdelegates--those that are collected before the primaries and caucuses even begin--are only an unfair advantage for whomever the Establishment has chosen as the annointed and "inevitable" one. But guess what? It's not their call.

The Blasé Band can say what they like about how we didn't have to worry. But they miss the most important points. The Superdelegate Transparency Project moved people from concern, straight into action--and transparency is playing its very important role in keeping the superdelegates honest. Sorry, we didn't want to sit around on our couches, talking about throwing pies. We wanted to make sure this never happens again.

Next, we can use the STP data to bring all Democrats around to a necessary realization.

Superdelegates? We don't need no superdelegates!

We need a Democratic nomination process that is democratic.

[Note:If you have some time today, come join STP's Barn-Raising effort. We're trying to get the last bits of data updated, so we can begin releasing our findings to the media next week.]

[Cross-posted at HuffPO and LiteraryOutpost.]

Saturday roundup - McCain, immigration, the Senate and Superdelegates

Some am thoughts at this exciting time:

Picking a Democratic Nominee - I may be niave, but somehow I think the current process will end up picking a nominee without the Democratic Party having to do extrarordinary things. If one candidate emerges by mid-March as stronger than the other, the pressure on the weaker one to get out will be so great that the race could just end. The Superdelegates will begin to break towards the stronger one, ratifying the will of the voters. A deal with be struck to seat Florida and Michigan. Markos proposes a 50/50 split - not a bad idea. But we agree with Bob Kerrey these states should not have a voice in picking the nominee, and that the rules are the rules. In this year of all years - when we've seen unprecedented citizen involvement in politics - it is critical that the Party of the People not once again become the Party of the Smoke Filled Room.

For more on the history of how Democrats ended up with this crazy system read the Post's Ruth Marcus's excellent overview.

But of course this puts all eyes on the March 4th states of Ohio and Texas. If Obama wins both these states, or perhaps even one of them, I think he will win the nomination. If that night somehow Hillary ends up winning the night, either by winning one and drawing in another or winning both, she could be back in this thing. This next period - with 2 debates - Wisconsin. Ohio and Texas is for all the marbles. And with Clinton holding large leads in both the big March 4th states, the drama is can Barack - with his financial edge and the power of his personal appearances - catch up? For those of political junkies, the upcoming rallies, speeches and debates are going to be must sees CSpaners as both Obama and Clinton understand the make or break importance of these critical states and will giving it their all.

The Hispanic Vote so far - If you haven't read it, check out NDN's new study on the Hispanic Vote in 2008. It has some dramatic results, and all sorts of bad news for John McCain and the GOP. If you want to see the study's author in person, come to our event this Wed in DC featuring Joe Trippi, Amy Walter of Hotline and Andres Ramirez, the director of Hispanic Programs at NDN.

Will McCain quit the Senate? - Josh Marshall has been asking the question. I think McCain will quit the Senate and run his campaign from Arizona, right in the middle of the hugely important swing region of the Southwest. For McCain being in DC will complicate his life and make it even less likely he wins. The Democrats will use the Senate to tie him down, interrupt his fundraisers, make him take tough votes. He will have to work much more closely with the very failed Washington GOP, which has given him a recession, a declining middle class, the worst foreign policy mistake in American history, unprecedented levels of corruption and cronyism, and no progress on key issues like climate change, health care and immigration. The more tied McCain is to this era of American history the less likely he is to win, and my guess is that by mid-March he will be trailing the Democratic frontrunner by high single digits or more. So he will have to go, to change the dynamic of what may very wll be a losing campaign. And besides Arizona is a good place to retire to.

The interesting question is if McCain quits the Senate what will Barack do? Running for President from Washington is no easy thing, particularly in this year of "change."

McCain, Hispanics and Immigration - I've gotten questions from the press this week about McCain and immigration, suggesting that given his leadership on immigration reform won't he be able to get back to Bush numbers with Hispanics, and put the heavily Hispanic swing states - AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV - out of play for the Democrats.

There is no question that McCain was a leader on immigration reform. But in 2007 when his bill was brought back up by the a newly elected Democratic Senate (it passed a GOP controlled Senate in 2006) McCain was nowhere to be found. Spooked by his early primary stumbles, McCain distanced himself from his own bill, and forced Democrats to negotiate with GOP leaders like John Kyl who had opposed the bill in 2006. The end result of McCain's betrayal of his own bill was without the bill's author, the bill collapsed and progress on fixing our broken immigration system stopped. In a recent interview on Meet the Press, McCain even suggested he would no longer vote for his bill if it came up.

So can McCain claw his way back with Hispanics, given how far his Party has fallen with them? Perhaps, but given his betrayal on this critical issue, his connection to the deeply unpopular Bush, his lack of any real plan for universal health coverage and his strong support of the war (Hispanics are and have been more against the war than the public at large), I think the decision McCain made to walk from his own bill in 2007 to appease GOP primary voters managed to both get him nothing with the anti-immigrant wing of his own Party while at the same time tossing away any chance he had of getting his necessary share with Hispanic voters in 2008.

Update: MSNBC's First Read has a must read account of a conference call today with Harold Ickes of the Clinton campaign, where, among other things, he makes the case for why the election results in Florida and Michigan need to be counted even though as a member of the DNC he voted to strip them of their delegates thus nullifying the results of their elections.

Update 2: TNR's Jonathan Cohn also condems the Clinton Florida and Michigan play, and Josh Marshall captures the anger many feel at the recent wave of Clintonian threats to play games with the system.

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