State Of The Race: Superdelegates Moving To Obama

04/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary Clinton is not a "dead woman walking" yet. It is a mischaracterization of the Democratic Party process to compare her chances to those of Ralph Nader or even to those of Mike Huckabee, who could only have won the nomination after Romney's endorsement of McCain if the Republican front-runner had suffered massive health failure; there is still a coherent scenario that could lead to Clinton's nomination.

This is not to say that the Democratic contest is tight. It isn't. In fact, Clinton's chances are getting slimmer by the day -- and I'm not even talking about the polls from the upcoming primaries that show her losing her grip on Pennsylvania and fallen far behind in North Carolina. Hillary's most pressing problem right now is that the audience she needs to convince so desperately is no longer waiting, with many superdelegates choosing to rally behind Obama:

* Jeanne Lemire Dahlman, a Montana National committeewoman and a superdelegate, announced tonight that she was backing Obama -- though she added that she could reconsider her choice if Hillary Clinton wins Montana on June 3rd.

* An even more complicated scenario unfolded with another Montana superdelegate, Margaret Campbell. She announced this morning that she was endorsing Obama before retracting herself tonight citing (1) her need to talk to tribal leaders before making a public announcement and (2) party rules that forbid the vice chair (among others) from making endorsements in a contested primary. Though Campbell will not be added to Obama's count, however, it is evident that he has to feel good about getting her endorsement eventually if the main reason she retracted herself were party rules.

* Meanwhile, new superdelegates are being added to the roll as more states are holding their conventions and choosing their add-ons. This week-end, North Dakota picked businessman Dan Hannaher, an Obama supporter, as its add-on. Saturday, Missouri selected its two add-ons, one of which is an Obama supporter (the other, gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon, is uncommitted). So count two more convention votes for Barack.

* Clinton also got some rare but very welcome good superdelegate news today as Arkansas Land Commissioner Mark Wilcox announced he was supporting Hillary. 11 out of 12 of the state's supers are Clinton backers, with the last hold-out still uncommitted.

* Meanwhile, Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, a very high-profile uncommitted superdelegate, implied today that he was leaning towards Obama's candidacy though he insisted that he would not announce any endorsement before the end of primary season on June 3rd. Harkin explained that he was disappointed in Hillary Clinton's suggestions that the Iowa caucuses disenfranchised voters and added that that would feature in his final decision...

Since Super Tuesday, Obama has netted almost 70 delegates while Hillary Clinton has had a net loss because of defections, some of them high-profile (Rep. Lewis). Clinton's hope is that some major event (a new scandal ["Obama is caught in flagrante delicto with an armadillo" suggests Zoot in a recent comment], further evidence of Obama's total incapacity of winning upcoming blue-collvar votes, or/and a stunningly impressive string of victories by Clinton) would suddenly give her enough momentum to go back to superdelegates and get their attention. There are still enough uncommitted delegates for this scenario to be coherent and possible, but as their pool diminishes Clinton needs a higher and higher proportion of remaining superdelegates to turn to her and as of now most are turning to her rival instead.

Naturally, superdelegates are unpledged and if something big actually happens they could switch allegiances; but if a significant number of uncommitted were to pick a side quickly (as Harry Reid and Howard Dean want them to do) it would definitely accelerate the process and up the pressure on the candidates to end this race.

But in case you have never closed your eyes to imagine the sweetly insane delirium that a brokered convention could be, do read Lawrence O'Donnell's piece in NYmag imagining Denver's "psycho-political thriller." Here is the beginning to give you a sense of where things could be heading if the nomination is thrown to the convention floor:

Fat man: Yeah ... Harold, can I call you ba-- ... Uh-huh ... I still haven't deci-- ... This really isn't a good time for-- ... Please. I have to-- ... I just-- ... I need-- ... (Desperate to get back to sex, gives up.) Okay ... Yes, I'm saying yes ... No, you can't announce it yet ... I'm giving you my word ... I've got to hang up now ... Okay. (Hangs up.)
Hooker (looking up from his work): Are you a superdelegate?

Harold Ickes hanging up the phone in his hotel suite, the Clinton delegate-counting center.

Ickes: Hey, I just got the lieutenant governor of--
Howard Wolfson: Have you seen Gore? (Grabs a remote, flips on CNN's live coverage of Al Gore arriving at Denver airport.)
Ickes (shocked): Holy shit!
Wolfson: He's lost, what, 30 pounds?
Ickes (still can't believe his eyes): He looks like ...
Wolfson: A fucking candidate!

That's right, Al Gore tries to impose himself as a back-up (Is it that unlikely an idea?). We sall soon see if we will assist to Gore's "march across the convention floor that gets him mobbed by worshipful delegates shaking his hand and getting their pictures taken with him" while "Dean rushes the convention to a third ballot before Gore can build up momentum. Hillary and Barack go to the floor and desperately work the delegates during the roll call of the states."