If you happened to be watching TV last night at, oh, around ten o’clock, you may have witnessed the moment when, symbolically, the presidential primaries ended — and the general election began. Out in Madison, Wisconsin, in the speech celebrating his clean and decisive sweep of the Potomac primary, Barack Obama ignored his current opponent and trained his fire instead on the man who may stand as his future rival, John McCain, arguing that “his priorities are bound to the failed policies of the past.” A few minutes later, from a stage in Alexandria, Virginia, McCain belittled Obama as blatantly as possible without ever mentioning him by name: “To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude.”
And where in all this, you might well wonder, was Hillary Clinton? In El Paso, Texas, imploring, in effect, “Hey! Remember me?”
Today’s Potomac primary (Chesapeake primary?) in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland is expected to deliver another sweep to Obama and add to the woes of the Clinton campaign. Since the draw that was Super Tuesday, she’s been hit by a string of bad news: her $5 million self-loan, her remarkable fund-raising being overshadowed by Obama’s even more remarkable fund-raising, being routed in last weekend’s primaries, her campaign shake-up, and a slew of recent polls that show her to be the weaker candidate against John McCain. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Clinton? Or is the tunnel more like that superlong one proposed to run between Long Island and Westchester and destined to deposit her back at home?
Man, the election is all about the superdelegates these days, huh? As Obama surges into the Potomac primary, the press remains unwilling to start making predictions about a serious downturn in Hillary's chances. They've learned their lesson from New Hampshire, after all: There's no telling what will happen in this race. Instead, the media is focusing on getting hysterical about superdelegates, and the possibility that the influence of those 796 unpledged party officials will swing the primary results away from the will of the voting public. But who are New York's superdelegates? Who are these people who have the power to, well, take power away from us? They include Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Eliot Spitzer, our 23 Democratic congressmen, and Democratic National Committee officials like Randi Weingarten. Many of the above have worked extensively with Hillary Clinton since she was elected senator and are likely to swing her way. Today, the Sunspoke with Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who is one of our Clinton supporters. "I'll be with Hillary to the end," said Velazquez, when asked about critics of the superdelegate system who would like it to more accurately reflect the will of the people.
Even if Obama’s victories in this past weekend’s primaries and caucuses did nothing to clarify the delegate count (either he’s up, or down, or they’re tied — nobody knows for certain), he certainly now has that treasured “momentum” going for him. Obama’s wins in Nebraska, Washington, Maine, and Louisiana weren’t even close. And in the Virgin Islands, he won the popular vote 92 percent to 8 percent (as the old saying goes, “As the Virgin Islands go, so goes the nation”). It looks likely as well that he’ll sweep the Potomac primary tomorrow and Hawaii and Wisconsin on February 19. Obama even won a Grammy last night — over Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is shaking up her campaign staff. So, are the superdelegates still headed to that smoke-filled room?
At this moment, David Shuster may very well be booking a flight to a remote island somewhere. During a discussion of Chelsea Clinton's recently elevated role in Hillary's campaign on MSNBC last night, Shuster asked whether the 27-year-old was "sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way." (Click above to view.) His point, some have interpreted, was that the only type of person that would campaign for their mother is some kind of street whore. Shuster made an on-air apology today, but so far Hillary is unwilling to bury the hatchet. Her communications director, Howard Wolfson, told reporters that Hillary might pull out of MSNBC's planned debate on February 26 in Ohio. "I, at this point, can't envision a scenario where we would continue to engage in debates on that network," he said in a conference call. Now, instead of ignoring Fox News, whose invitation to host a Democratic debate Hillary finally (unilaterally) accepted a few days ago, Hillary's shutting out MSNBC. It's like the networks just switched their acceptable/pariah roles. Those with sharp memories may recall a similar Chelsea-attack episode in 1993, when Mike Myers claimed on SNL that Chelsea Clinton, 13 years old at the time, was "not a babe." If Chelsea's the type of person to look for a silver lining, she might note that at least the inappropriate, disparaging comments about her have improved over the years: She went from being unattractive to being so attractive that people will pay to have sex with her. Remember to thank Shuster for the compliment, Chelsea. —Dan Amira MSNBC's Chelsea Comment Angers Clinton [Guardian]
Update: Shuster has been suspended temporarily from appearances on NBC and MSNBC because of his gaffe.
Why did twice as many gay Democratic voters prefer Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama on Super-Duper Tuesday? Despite Obama's soaring rhetoric of inclusion, according to exit polls, Hillary won the gay vote 63 percent to 29 percent in California and 59 percent to 36 percent in New York. In tony coastal Massachusetts, Obama carried Martha's Vineyard (the Clintons' on-again, off-again summer home), but Hillary tellingly swept Provincetown. The compromises and betrayals of Bill Clinton's presidency ("Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Defense of Marriage Act, and other more minor offenses) seem to be forgotten or at least forgiven. But this could be as much about fear of Obama as it is belief in Clinton.
While it seems increasingly likely that the Democratic nomination won’t be decided until August in a dark back room filled with smoke, secret deals, power plays, bribery, blackmail, maybe some murder, and definitely maniacal laughter, the Republican nominee was pretty much crowned yesterday. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Mitt Romney announced to the crowd that he was bowing out of the race to unify the party and avoid a Democratic surrender to terrorists, throwing one last bone to the base before he departed (until 2012 or 2016). McCain took the stage as the Republican nominee, and he offered an olive branch that was generally well received by the suspicious audience. He’ll move forward with some advantages over his still-feuding Democratic counterparts, but his road to victory is still bumpy and strewn with intractable, cranky conservatives.
Buried in Rush & Molloy's "Side Dish" section today is a totally fun, kinda bitchy tidbit from Mike Bloomberg about Hillary Clinton. At a private event on Wednesday, Bloomberg said he thinks that after Super Tuesday, she's "going to be the nominee." But, he said, "that's not to say she can beat John McCain." Bloomberg and New York's junior senator have been friendly as they've worked together on state issues, but his comments Wednesday seem a little skeptical. Hizzoner couldn't vote in New York on Tuesday because he's now a registered Independent. If he did make a bid for the presidency starting next month, he'd be courting a lot of the outside-the-box, fiscally conscious voters who have been attracted to McCain. "Hillary should pray I get in the race," he cracked, "because that would help her." Ah! Hubris! He's already sounding presidential…
Side Dish [NYDN]
Perhaps the best things in life are free, but those delegates are getting more expensive by the day. News hit that Hillary Clinton has loaned her campaign $5 million from her personal finances and that some of her campaign staff were voluntarily working without pay. Barack Obama is now using the loan as a fund-raising appeal — and, as it turns out, so is Clinton. In a race where every delegate could prove pivotal, the two are now locked in a spiraling fund-raising frenzy of unprecedented scale. If you have a safe or a hollowed-out book, you might want to store your money in there until this thing blows over.
After Hillary Clinton announced late yesterday that in January she lent $5 million dollars to her own campaign, it got us thinking: If we donated money to her in the last couple of weeks, were we actually just paying her back? Clinton called the loan a wise "investment." Now, we know that she's not going to make, like, a profit on this investment (that would be especially awkward, now that highly placed officials in her campaign are going without pay) unless it's in "political capital." But the loan is estimated to be upwards of 10 percent of her personal wealth, which sets up this weird expectation that she is maybe going to get it back.
Like most people professionally preoccupied with the truly mind-blowing race for the Democratic presidential nomination — and even some folks whose fixation on it is purely recreational — I spent all of last night and much of today combing through the reams of numbers coughed up by 22 separate contests that took place on Super Tuesday. The delegate counts. The superdelegate counts. The exit-poll cross tabs. Oy vey.
John McCain entered Super-Duper Tuesday with two goals — one obvious and concrete, the other more ephemeral but no less important in the long run. The first of McCain’s aims was to secure enough delegates in the 21 states in which Republicans voted to more or less lock up his party’s nomination. And the second was to win so decisively, so convincingly, that he could turn to the braying, hard-right, anti-McCain caucus and say, in effect: “Hello, people, lookee here, the party has rallied around me; it’s time for you either to get on the bus or shut the fuck up.”
If you thought race would disappear from the Democratic campaign after the controversies in South Carolina, you were horribly mistaken. This issue returned with a vengeance after last night’s Super Tuesday returns showed a stark racial divide among voters for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Barack continued to garner around 80 percent of black support, while Hillary took a strong majority of Latino and Asian voters, who turned out to be especially important in California. Whites, however, seemed to split along gender lines, further confusing things. Opinions on all this abound.
Good morning! How late did you stay up watching the Super Tuesday results come in? Did you make it to Minnesota? All the way to California? Well, now more than 90 percent of precincts are reported in all the states, and the results are more solid. John McCain has strengthened his lead on the Republican side, winning in nine states and pulling in an estimated 613 delegates. Romney, who won six states, pulled in only 269, and Huckabee, who was stronger last night than many expected, still earned only 190 delegates. On the Democratic side, things were much less clear. Late in the evening, Hillary pulled out a win by 10 percent in the hotly contested California race, putting her state total at eight and her estimated delegate total at 845. Obama won thirteen states and 765 delegates. That's still far short of the 2,025 needed for a win, so we've got a long way to go. Both had strong wins in their home states of New York and Illinois, and the closest races were in New Mexico (still uncalled) and Missouri. Obama's strong showing is going to make the next few weeks very interesting as Hillary tries to hang on to her base. We can't wait! Tears! Red-faced Bill! Badass Michelle! Hope! Change! Day One! Bring it on.
Election Index [NYT]
Hillary wins big in New York. Ho-hum, right? Yet what happened just below the surface today gives fascinating indications of where the Democratic primary race will be going — not just in the next several hours, as California, the largest Super Tuesday prize, is decided, but over the next months, as this complicated, unpredictable, and bitter nominating contest continues to unfold.
In honor of the orgy of voting that is going on all over the country today, Daily Intel is staying up late tonight. Really late. Starting at 8:30 p.m., New York columnist Kurt Andersen is going to be live-blogging the primary results. Then, later in the evening, Chris Smith will take a look at voting in our home state and what it means, and John Heilemann will analyze the national results on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the table. So tonight, when you get home from the gym, after your friends have arrived to watch the results and you've ordered pizza and uncorked that magnum of Cavit Pinot Grigio that someone random dragged over, go ahead and log on to Nymag.com. After all, as the hours go on, even Lou Dobbs's voice starts to pound against your eardrums like a Q-tip during a hangover (you know, like Chris Matthews's voice does every day). We'll be quietly examining what today's voting means for the candidates and, more importantly, what it means for you.
P.S.: Last night, we were at the Met watching Carmen, and we totally spotted MSNBC's Chuck Todd out of the office, on a date. Slacker!
Super Tuesday wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were expecting a de facto national primary that finally determined our presidential candidates, but while McCain seems to have the Republican nomination locked up, judging from the ever-tighter polls it looks like the Democrats will be slugging it out long after the California returns are finally official tomorrow morning. Both campaigns will try to spin “victories” out of whatever the results actually are, having been steadily lowering expectations in the run-up to today. The media, meanwhile, won't be able to resist favoring one or the other as the winner, but what will they base it on? Who took the most states? Who took the most delegates? Who won the popular vote? Or who beat expectations? Which leaves the most important question of all — where (and when) will this all end?
Of course, tomorrow morning we're probably not going to have learned anything definitive about this year's presidential primary. But that doesn't mean that each major candidate isn't treating Super Tuesday as a do-or-die moment. Late last night and early this morning, each took the opportunity to make a final statement that would be circulated through the press throughout today as people gear up to head to the polls. Here's what they've been saying:
• "In my White House, we will know who wears the pantsuits," Hillary Clinton cracked on Letterman's show last night. Sure, it was a joke response to a question from the host about whether husband Bill Clinton would be "going through stuff" while she was busy governing the nation, but it's an important point. Since Bill got a little out-of-control campaigning on her behalf, and since she cried again yesterday, it was important for her to reiterate that she is tough and in charge. [Reuters]
• John McCain, meanwhile, stayed on message, saying that both Democratic candidates are clueless on Iraq. He also indicated that he'd set up "arrangements" to leave U.S. troops there permanently. "We've been in Kuwait right next door [to Iraq] for many years," he pointed out. [NYDN]
You might think that tomorrow you’ll simply be voting for a presidential candidate, but that’s only true for Republicans. When Democrats enter the sacred voting booth, they’ll also be voting for which delegates to send to the party’s national convention. Here’s how it works: Beneath each candidate’s name you’ll see the names of five or six delegates (depending on the concentration of registered Democrats in each district). These delegates are active party members, often state or local elected officials, who have pledged their undying loyalty to their candidate. Unless they represent you or you’re a really big politics nerd, chances are that you won’t have heard of them. Do not panic. You’ll probably just want to vote for the delegates pledged to the candidate you prefer. If you’re the type of person that puts too much thought into things, you could, say, vote for three of Hillary’s delegates and three of Barack’s.
Yep, it's official. Hillary Clinton is running to be Crybaby-in-Chief. According to the Tribune Co.'s politics blog, the Swamp, Clinton teared up after a heartfelt introduction by a former colleague at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, where she worked in college. The emotional speech led "Clinton's eyes to fill with tears, which she wiped out of her left eye," reads the report (so clinical). "Well, I said I would not tear up; already we're not exactly on the path," Clinton said immediately after. AHEM. Now, to be fair to Clinton, who after all is human no matter what people say, hearing a tearful tribute to you from a former mentor is exactly the kind of thing that would choke up nearly anybody. But it won't be lost on the press that she happened to cry just on the eve of an important primary vote, and that she happened to do so in a state where she has been losing her edge. After all, she is four points behind Obama in Connecticut in some polls after this weekend. We don't think Hillary was dumb enough to think that crying again would be to her political advantage — the last thing she wants to be seen as is weak. But there's no question that people will say it was a ploy. Come on, lady. You've been through a hell of a lot that was worse than this. At least wait until after tomorrow. If you lose Super Tuesday, then nobody will blame you for crying.
Hillary Clinton cries in Connecticut [The Swamp]
Earlier:Hillary Clinton: Minority Candidate