Is that a thrill going up your leg, Chris Matthews? We're betting yes, because primary season is now officially over and one candidate has officially reached the all-important delegate majority of 2,118: Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Whew! It's been one heck of a long haul getting here, especially for those who totally thought this thing would be done by Feburary 5th. Yes, that includes Hillary Clinton, who nonetheless put up quite an impressive fight (depending, of course, on who you're asking, because they might say "who totally lost her ridiculous lead and "inevitable" status to a newcomer who snuck in from nowhere and snatched away the prize that she ought to have had locked up"). Either way, the long months and variously-crunched numeric totals all tell the story of a hard-fought campaign split almost down the middle (again, depending on who you ask), able to be decided (if not predicted) only in the eleventh-hour, and even then close enough for Clinton to back up her non-concession with a claim of leading in the popular vote. The "pundits and the naysayers" can smack their foreheads all they want (and they did), but that doesn't change the fact that the dang thing was close.
But — as Jeffrey Toobin pointed out on CNN last night, "close" is lovely but second is still not first. Running for president is necessarily a game won by process of elimination.
Obama won that game fair and square, and now all that's left are the negotiations, secret meetings and ardent petitions by Lanny Davis.
That's the stuff of cable news going forward — expect to hear a lot about Charlie Crist, Katherine Sebellius, Jim Webb, Bobby Jindal, Chuck Hagel, Joe Biden, Wes Clark, Tim Kaine, and, thanks to precedent, Jim Johnson — but for now this is what we noticed from last night's coverage, in no particular order:
- Chuck Todd on MSNBC: Even if you added in full delegate totals that Clinton wanted from Michigan and Florida, Obama would have won the delegate count.
- That said, Brit Hume on Fox noted that "Clinton had won more than half of the last 15 or so primaries, and ended up as the winner, despite [Obama's] nomination or apparent nomination, of the popular vote." (Qualifier: Pop. vote including Michigan.)
- Also per Hume: "The story of the day was written, really, by the superdelegates, who began at last to arrive in considerable numbers" allowing the AP to make its call. (And beat ABC, and all those other super-cautious namby-pamby non-early-election-callers).
- What does Hillary Clinton want? She might as well have spelled it out: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to HRC. That's it. Her audience booed the punditocracy for a reason. (Related: Alex Castellanos was back on the front bench at CNN.)
- In case you missed the message, it was there in song: "Simply The Best" by Tina Turner and "Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty. Subtle. (Contrast: Obama played "Beautiful Day.")
- Is it possible for one little fist-punch to steal the entire thunder from Obama's speech? Nah, but the fist-punch between him and Michelle Obama was a cute and much-mentioned moment. Also the affectionate ass-pat, which was hidden on MSNBC by the chyron but which I later saw on CNN. Aw.
- About that speech: Lots interesting in it, including his warm encomium about Hillary Clinton. Also his comment about "letting petty dictators know where America stands" — his yes-I'd-meet-with-Ahmadinejad- without-preconditions assertion from early on in the debates has been a vulnerable spot, and he's making sure that everyone knows he's not a softie.
- Reax to Hillary's speech: Not a whole lot of approval. Why oh why won't she ever back down? They've been asking for months, after all. Consensus: It's a power play, a combination of stubborn denial (no no no no no no no nomination MINE) and realpolitik-style reminder that she may have lost but she may well be taking a few large chunks of the democratic electorate with her (also subtle: "We won together the swing states necessary to get to 270 electoral votes").
- David Gergen, former Clintonite (and former Bush 41-er), notably even-handed on CNN, harshed particularly on Clinton's speech, saying it was "defiant" and against all the advice she would have gotten from the Big Dog Dems. Though what have the Big Dog Dems done for her, really — I'm sure she's not bending over backward to please Nancy Pelosi right now.
- Gloria Borger said that if she were Obama and heard that speech, she would not be happy...I think he looked pretty happy to me. This is where Obama's coolness comes into play. He knows that what he needs from Clinton (permission for her supporters to swing to him) is more important than what she needs from him (validation, acknowledgment and respect). I don't think she'll be on the ticket and I don't think she wants to be. But she does want the legacy of her and her husband restored, and she'll need Obama to do it. Personal opinion.
- What else? Oh, right: "...from the hills of New Hampshire to the hollows of West Virginia and Kentucky, from the fields of California to the factories of Ohio, from the Alleghenies to the Ozarks to the Everglades." What, no mention of Nevada? Remember how important Nevada seemed at one point? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, I guess.
- A nice observation from my colleague Jason Linkins: "Norah O'Donnell is on MSNBC, and it reminds me that even though it's fair to say that her colleague Chuck Todd is definitely the MVP of the primary season, O'Donnell's been doing most of the same work whilst toting around her soon-to-be-born baby. Tonight, she's crunching exit polls and is radiating that mom-to-be glow. So, a cheer for O'Donnell, punditing for two." Good point. Loved the pretty purple.
- Speaking of MVPs, CNN's Magic Wall Master John King was off on his honeymoon, but who could tell? There was another snowy-haired maestro at the machine last night — John Roberts, working the board with impressive dexterity for a newbie (the board seemed a little less like a living, breathing thing, but it was definitely still a terrific toy, and Roberts was also in command of the data. Like, who knew that Obama had been made an honorary tribe member on a Montana Indian reservation? Anyone watching CNN during the 8 p.m. hour, that's who).
- Also - after magic-manning the wall, Roberts was up and anchoring at 5 a.m. Impressif, as they say in Quebec, which is in Canada, where he's originally from.
- Oh, right, McCain: Much ado about the green background for his speech. But you know, no one would have noticed the background if the speech hadn't sucked so bad. Also, it seemed churlish and out-of-place on a night of historic significance to the country.
- Over on Fox, "informal" McCain advisor Karl Rove was VERY CONCERNED about Obama's health care plan. "What he's offering is gold-plated very expensive policy we give federal employees...can we really afford that?" Rove: Keeping Things The Same For Federal Employees That You Can Believe In!
- Also on Fox: Bill Kristol, joking that he sent in his thoughts to HillaryClinton.com. He's been such a supporter of her, he says, fighting the sexists all around him. Oh-ho-ho-ho.
- Meanwhile, on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann actually threw to Dan Abrams. That is the first time I have seen that. Progress!
- Related: "After Hours" featuring the smooth jazz stylings of Abrams is now an actually programming staple on MSNBC. It's so ludicrous but so hilarious. Why does it work? It sort of does.
- Brian Williams: If it's driving too fast in a circle, he's there. By "there" he means a racetrack, specifically the Gallatin Speedway, where he'd love to see what they think about Obama. Which means someone from NBC just got a Friday night assignment in Belgrade, Montana.
- CNN's Jim Acosta at Mount Rushmore: Nice touch. NB: Carved in stone, no one can tell what color you are.
- Best hair: Chelsea Clinton, by a mile. Luxuriant! Actually, can we talk about how great everyone looked? Hillary's suit was great, loved the blue; Michelle Obama looked super-stylish in her sleeveless purple sheath with that belt and those ever-present pearls (Michy O!); Barack always looks great, especially when he unleashes that smile; and I'm sorry, but Karl Rove is hot.
- Sometimes I just want to see if you're paying attention.