Photo: Michael Temchine/Redux

In January, Harold Ickes, who was Bill’s deputy White House chief of staff, left his lobbying firm to corral superdelegates for Hillary’s campaign. On the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, he spoke to Lloyd Grove about Hillary’s tenacious endgame.

Give me your sense of the state of play.
It’s a virtual dead heat, and with 3,100 delegates having chosen sides, Hillary is trailing Obama by a little over 130 delegates. She’s going to narrow that gap. If virtually all of the superdelegates remain uncommitted until the fourth of June, after every last jurisdiction has voted, neither candidate will have enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

Howard Dean says he thinks it should be resolved by July 1. Is that the working deadline?
No, I don’t have any working deadline. My best guess is it’ll be resolved before the convention.

How do you think she’ll do in Pennsylvania?
We say that she’s going to do very well.

What’s “very well”? Six points?
I’m not going to put a number on it.

What do superdelegates want to hear from you?
There are two big categories. One is members of Congress. Their primary interest is in getting reelected. They want to know which of the two will help them most or, conversely, which one will hurt them least. And then the two-thirds remaining are the members of the DNC, primarily. So what they are looking at is more which candidate can better pull together the swing states needed to win 270 electoral votes.

Are you arguing to superdelegates that Obama can’t win the general election?
I don’t think anybody would argue that he can’t win.

What is the argument for making Hillary the nominee if she’s behind in pledged delegates and the popular vote?
We expect her to be ahead in the popular vote. The key argument is who is going to be able to stand up to the incoming fire from the Republicans. And it will be withering.

But not sniper fire.
Well, even sniper fire—when it’s around. The press, by and large, has been a lapdog for Mr. Obama. The press has not done its due diligence, has not scrutinized him. Look at what a group of draft dodgers, led by Five-Time-Deferment Cheney and President Bush, did to a genuine war hero, John Kerry. Hillary is a known quantity.

She’s kind of inoculated against it, having suffered from the disease already?
Your words, not mine.

You worked in the presidential campaigns of Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson, who both support Obama. Ever think of joining them?
My heart is with Hillary. That’s where I’ve been; that’s where I intend to stay.

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