Commentary: Why Clinton Should (And Will) Stay in the Race Through South Dakota

As expected, Barack Obama rolled through the Wyoming caucuses and Mississippi primary this past week, apparently dulling the shine of the Clinton campaign’s big victories in Texas and Ohio on March 4th.

Due to those Clinton victories, the growing pressure for her to exit the race subsided, at least until the results of the Pennsylvania primary on April 22nd are known. But Clinton is expected to do as well in Pennsylvania as she did in the neighboring state of Ohio, so the question becomes—what then?

There remains a constant chatter within the media and by Obama supporters that Clinton cannot mathematically win the pledged delegate vote, therefore eventually necessitating a Clinton exit from the race (and the sooner the better). That is unlikely to happen.

First, Clinton is likely to win several more contests—Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico. While Obama has done very well in Western states, those have all been caucus victories with the exception of Utah (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska, Washington, Wyoming). Overall, Obama has a nearly 2:1 lead over Clinton in states won, but they are deadlocked in state primary contests (14 to 14, including Florida and Michigan). Clinton should therefore be competitive in the remaining Western states—all of which hold primaries: Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota. Obama, on the other hand, should do well in North Carolina, but the Illinois Senator is not ‘guaranteed’ any more victories through June.

Therefore, it is quite possible Clinton could come close to running the table with the 10 or so remaining contests. Such a scenario would not likely give her the majority of pledged delegates, but the momentum and positive media coverage she would receive would go a long way in solidifying and expanding her lead over Obama among super delegates. A perceived “Obama collapse” at the end of the primary season could make super delegates nervous about pitting Obama as their nominee against John McCain. The media and super delegates alike will be reading the matchup polls come May and June to see if they have a ‘winner’ in Obama or Clinton.

Furthermore, it is in Clinton’s interest to remain in the race because it is not yet certain what will happen in Michigan and Florida. Clinton would stand to gain delegates (and a lot of positive media exposure) if Florida revotes or somehow validates its January 29th returns. A revote in Michigan would be a close race between the two candidates.

Therefore, Clinton has everything to gain by remaining in the race, if one can assume her candidacy is about winning the White House. Calls for Clinton to back down at some point for the good of the Democratic Party are not going to be heard, so long as there is a chance Clinton could win the nomination outright.

Lastly, it is a political observer’s dream to witness such a tight race—a 100-delegate lead may sound like a lot, but it has been decades since the Democratic nominating process has gone down to the wire like the Obama-Clinton battle. May the games continue…

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