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Liveblogging The Season Finale Of The Democratic Primary Process

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PREVIOUSLY, ON THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY PROCESS...

A bunch of people decided to vie for the job of Democratic nominee for President of the United States, including Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, a pair of elderly blonde Senators, Horatio Sanz, a guy who made a bunch of weird performance art YouTubes and Dennis Kucinich, who ran four years ago and met the most crazy beautiful awesomely intelligent woman in the world so, this run was pure gravy, you know?

Anyway, these people debated and yelled at one another and made me wish that Elizabeth Edwards would enter the race, until everything converged on the wind-swept tundra of Iowa. There, despite having done the Iowans laundry and dishes for a solid year, John Edwards only managed to finish second. Hillary Clinton finished third and the entire media volunteered to start digging her grave. Emerging as the victor was Barack Obama. And that's where all the problems began.

Clinton went on to win the next contest in New Hampshire, but everyone said it was because she cried, which is GENDER CODE WORDS for something. Then she went to Wellesley and told the all-female student body that they could do really important things in life, and this was somehow controversial.

So then the race wended to South Carolina, where black people live, and those black people racistly voted for Obama, which caused Bill Clinton to utter the RACIAL CODE WORDS "Jesse Jackson" and boy was that ever a big mistake.

But the bigger mistake was that Hillary Clinton had tied her Super Tuesday fortunes to the keen strategic mind of Mark Penn, a bridge troll who lives in a hole in Georgetown filled with the money he tricked foolish fools into giving him. Mark Penn believed in this stuff called microtrends, and, without going into detail, it is totally totally stupid. So Clinton didn't score a knockout punch on Super Tuesday, ran out of money and then watched as Obama rattled off ten victories in a row. And because of some sort of ancient curse, Clinton could not just FIRE Mark Penn, so she instead had Harold Ickes yell at him every day for the rest of his life. None of this helped.

Then there was Bittergate, Tuzlagate, Wrightgate, Bill-keeps-saying-crazy-racial-things-gate, the Texas primacaucaorgy - which everyone won, and everyone lost - and a whole bunch of stuff about flag lapel pins.

And then there was a seven-week build-up to the Pennsylvania primary, which was about the most excruciating thing in the entire world.

And then ABC hosted the worst debate in the world. Reverend Wright said some more insane things, and Obama had to supercalifragilistically mega-repudiate him. Then Clinton and Obama started trading wins in whatever states remained, but Clinton couldn't beat the awful horrible math, so she tried to get all the votes from Florida and Michigan to count for her, but had to compromise, and everyone yelled at Sam Stein in a restaurant, except for Bill Clinton, who yelled about Vanity Fair.

And then we came to the end.*

[*NOTE: The HuffingtonPost is officially making no guarantee or promise that this is, in fact, the end. It probably is the end, but then again, it might not be. This could go on and on and on and on. Or it could come to a dead halt tonight. Really, for all you know, what you perceive as reality might not actually be happening. This life could be a glint of dust in the eye of an autistic child. We could all be in purgatory. Or, we could all be wired into some sort of panopticon, in a world run by robots who feed off of our existential frustration. In fact, given the way this primary has played out, THIS IS THE MOST LIKELY EXPLANATION. So, because we are sending rebels to defeat the robots, and we don't want to tip them off that we have become self-aware, please, just sit back, and pretend that everything is going according to plan. DEATH TO OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS!]

Good evening and welcome to a special liveblog of what could be the season finale of the Democratic Primary Process. We are coming to you live from the Huffington Post Election Night Nerve Center (aka editor Nico Pitney's apartment). We are watching and waiting for something to happen. Maybe we'll have a nominee? Various counts have Illinois Senator Barack Obama within sight of clinching the nomination tonight. We'll see. Please enjoy the liveblog, which we shall update throughout the night. Please feel free to leave comments, and, as with our Sunday Morning Liveblogs, you are more than welcome to send me an email if you like.

So, this should be no surprise to anyone: John McCain has officially decided to recognize Barack Obama as his election opponent. His forthcoming remarks are circulating online:

You will hear from my opponent's campaign in every speech, every interview, every press release that I'm running for President Bush's third term. You will hear every policy of the President described as the Bush-McCain policy. Why does Senator Obama believe it's so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it's very difficult to get Americans to believe something they know is false. So he tries to drum it into your minds by constantly repeating it rather than debate honestly the very different directions he and I would take the country. But the American people didn't get to know me yesterday, as they are just getting to know Senator Obama.

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.

Speaking of Chuck Todd, he busted out some electoral map science with regard to the Democratic Veepstakes. One of the big issues is whether or not the Dream Ticket (or, as Russert just called it, "The Hillary Clinton Situation") is going to be a reality. Todd figures that the Dream Ticket might add up to a not-insignificant gain on the electoral map for Obama, though Todd also seemed pretty bullish on Evan Bayh and Kathleen Sebellius. Over at the blog Cynic's Party, they are already voicing some consternation at the prospect of the "Dream Ticket."

All we know is that Obama has agreed to meet with Clinton "at a time and place of her choosing," which I imagine does not include "on Ron Burkle's private plane with Mayhill Fowler."

QUESTION: Settle a debate for the HuffPo Washington Bureau. What Jay-Z remix do you think Obama should play tonight at his speech? I lean toward either the "Dirt Off Your Shoulder/Bittersweet Symphony" mashup or "The Doorbell Encore" mashup with the White Stripes.

Chris Matthews just said something about how Hillary Clinton has been making "kissy-face" with John McCain in the "commander-in-chief threshold treehouse." I am now asking Nico how well stocked his liquor cabinet is. We are now ordering pizza for the Nico Pitney Nerve Center, which we are officially Charging To Da Game. (Thanks, Arianna!)

I want to take a moment to recognize the fine work that the people at 2008 Democratic Convention Watch have been doing tracking the decisions of superdelegates these past months. It's tough and thankless work, and they have been my go-to source for delegate counts because they have rigorously sourced all of the various superdelegates' decisions. Kudos!

In a similar vein, if you were expecting the remaining uncommitted superdelegates from the Senate to make their commitments known tonight, think again. Politico is reporting that they will wait until tomorrow.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who has not yet endorsed either Obama or Clinton, urged the 17 other uncommitted superdelegates in his chamber to "keep their decision in their pocket" for the time being while Clinton irons out her plans. Reid said he would make his own endorsement by the end of the week.

This is in keeping with Harry Reid's rich tradition of waiting to do things until he is absolutely 100% sure, then taking another year in rapt contemplation. Like, say, the way he's gone about ending the Iraq War! We can wait a little longer for these important decisions and stands, right?

Rachel Maddow lays out McCain's argument: "I'm a reformer. I'm not going to change everything. I'm going to tweak everything to make it better. I have 26 years of experience." The obvious counter is: Why haven't you successfully made the case for these tweaks in 26 years?

Lest we forget: There are GOP Primaries tonight! In South Dakota and New Mexico. We'll be looking at those to see how many votes McCain leaves on the table to other candidates like Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney.

Andrea Mitchell is reporting live from the "bearcat den" at Baruch College, where Clinton will appear tonight, give a rousing speech to her supporters, and then order the bearcats to devour Mark Penn.

Howard FIneman is on teevee right now explaining what might occur as far as the Obama-Clinton Vice Presidential Tango. Describing it as "ceremony" and "Kabuki theatre," Fineman anticipates a complicated process where Obama offers Clinton the vice-presidency, and she will graciously turn it down, and then, BLAMMO! Unity! Dogs laying with cats and such. Interestingly, Fineman floats the rumor that the Clintonites may require of Obama that he not select another woman to be on the ticket. So, up with the sisterhood, I guess.

Another tidbit floating around right now: Obama's next stop after tonight will be Appalachia.

McCain is now talking, and being nice to Hillary Clinton, saying that she did not always receive the respect she deserved. This, coming from a man who made the Woodstock earmark joke at one of the GOP debates.

MCCAIN: "The choice is between the right change and the wrong change...America has seen tough times before...but we've always believed that our best days are ahead of us." So, hop in my magical time-machine, and we'll skip ahead to the year 2013!

McCain is standing in front of a green background, because he's the Republican King of Global Warming, and the slogan reads "A Leader We Can Believe In." I was hoping he'd opt for the slogan recently proferred by Ana Marie Cox: "John McCain: The American President America Has Been Waiting In America For To Govern America."

McCain on Obama: "You know, I have a few years on my opponent, so I'm surprised that such a young man has bought in to so many failed ideas." Well, he's not bought into the failed idea that surging its way through Iraq.

Now he's making fun of Obama for "drumming it into the minds" of people that McCain is an extension of the Bush presidency. This from a man so insecure in his temperament that he has to keep drumming into his own mind that the people he is addressing are, "My friends."

Everyone cheers when he describes Bush's Iraq strategy as a miserable failure, so I'm guessing that Obama can pick off a few of these voters between now and November.

A NOTE ON "OPTICS": So, McCain is speaking before a modest sized crowd, and they are gamely cheering and booing and clapping, but this appearance is going to look puny by the end of the night, after Clinton and Obama make their appearances before larger crowds of even more enthusiastic supporters. McCain's speech is like watching a competent cover band play your local bar. Obama's speech is going to be Coldplay - this new falsetto-eschewing "Violet Hill" Coldplay.

Also, McCain is making the bush-league mistake of incorporating Obama's talking points into his speech. Every time he repeats Obama's frames, an angel gets its wings. Somewhere, George Lakoff is exulting. If you are like many of our commenters, you're probably getting a little hungry to see this battle enjoined.

It's 9:00pm, and MSNBC is officially declaring that Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States.

That's as good a reason as any to switch away from McCain's speech, which, not surprisingly, is not being received well. Marc Ambinder says, "I wish I had a screen grab... but the green background is very weird and very jarring. On this stage, theatrics matter."

I've already seen one person point out that John McCain opened with a lie: "Greetings from. . . New Orleans." He isn't in New Orleans, actually. Hopefully, he'll be able to find it if he needs to haul FEMA to a hurricane there.

It's too bad that John McCain didn't think to book America's Most Popular Rock Band Ever, The Decemberists, as his warm up act...there would totally be a million kabillion people at his little speech.

Matt Yglesias notes: "...it's interesting that he's shifted his aesthetic from his old black and white 'fascist' aesthetic to a new green and white Islamofascist aesthetic."

And the inimitable Moe Tkacik has a great, link-laden reflection on the primary process as well.

Let's check in on how the McCain juggernaut of "change" is captivating the people of South Dakota! With 19% of precincts reporting, McCain has captured a mindblowing 71% of the vote. I tell you, that McCain is like a runaway train of excitement! He's only been the GOP nominee since, like, forever, and still people vote for Ron Paul (15% so far), Mike Huckabee (8%), and "UNCOMMITTED, MAYBE SOME HOBO WITH GOOD IDEAS OR AT LEAST A FEW FUNCTIONING TEETH WILL EMERGE (3%). What would McCain's "Yes we can" chant be? "Maybe someday we will, sorta!" Leave your best guesses in the comments.

Now Hillary takes the stage in New York, and she immediately strikes a chord of eloquent magnanimity. She congratulates Obama, his supporters, and talks about what an "honor" it's been to run against him. Her supporters are beyond stoked, and they're clearly not at all ready to give up. They are ripping the McCain appearance to shreds.

But so far, it's difficult to divine whether this is a "concession" speech or a "we will fight on" speech. At one point, she talks about how she's committed to uniting the party. But then she talks about how her primary wins total up to 270 votes in the electoral college.

"I know a lot of people are asking, 'What does Hillary want?'...I want to end the War in Iraq, I want health care...I want to eighteen million people who voted for me to be respected and to no longer be invisible."

By the way, Hillary has won South Dakota.

Oh, and Obama's speech has been leaked.

And enjoy this: when you Google McCain's "A Leader You Can Believe In," this happens. Remember: the Obama campaign was built in Silicon Valley.

The money shot from Clinton: "This is a long campaign, and I will not be making any decisions tonight." And the crowd goes wild! And she reminds everyone of her website! She says she will consult with party leaders about the "best way forward." And she'd like to hear from her supporters.

It's 9:53pm and we have our first 9/11 reference! And a solemn hush falls over the crowd as Clinton orders us to "start acting like Americans again." And here I've been having such a good time acting like an Andorran!

For some more review of McCain's speech, please welcome Jeffery Toobin:

Still, I'd bet the reviews of the new M. Night Shyalaman movie will be worse.

Looking for clues in the Clinton event soundtrack? Songs played since the end of the speech: "Simply The Best", "I Won't Back Down." At the same time, these songs are on the K-TEL collection, "GREATEST HITS OF THOSE BLAND POLITICAL EVENTS THAT YOU'VE WORKED SO HARD TO AVOID ALL THESE YEARS."

A Child's Garden of Pundit Reaction to Clinton speech:

"Well whatever that was, it wasn't a concession speech." -- Brit Hume

"Clearly, she's trying to position herself, keep her options open." -- Tim Russert

"If I were Barack Obama, if I heard that speech, I would not be very happy. ... They are living in parallel universes right now." Gloria Borger.

"This was a defiant speech, against all the kind of advice that [heavyweights] within the Democratic Party gave her" -- David Gergen

"She did everything but offer Obama the vice presidency" -- GOP strategist Alex Castellanos

Tim Russert has just contradicted Howard Fineman, saying that the people he has been talking to at the Clinton campaign say that she'd really, really like to be Vice-President.

And Barack Obama has won Montana. So the primaries are over.

McCain has ticked up to a robust, world-beating 72% of the vote in South Dakota. He's doing better in New Mexico, where he's managed to snag 89% of the vote.

We're hearing now that Lanny Davis is launching a petition drive to get Hillary Clinton as the Vice-President. Because it's Lanny Davis, the petitions will be written with crayon, and filled with palpable rage.

From DailyKos: Clinton Open to Being Obama's Veep. I'm Open to Being the Detroit Tigers' Second Baseman.

Obama's speaking in St. Paul now. It is absolute bedlam.

I have Obama over the line by 3.5 votes. He'd better score one more so that Harold Ickes will stand down from his plan to firebomb the Credentials Committee.

OBAMA: "Thank you to David Plouffe, who never gets any credit." What? Who's not been giving David Plouffe credit? I credit him with having one of the most enjoyable names to say aloud: Plouffe. Plouffe. I can say it over and over and it never loses its pleasure!

Obama declares that the primary season is over. "I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States." And, the camera pulls back, and the brilliance of doing this at the site of the Republican National Convention reveals itself.

Obama, on Clinton:

That is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else. Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.

We've certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning - even in the face of tough odds - is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency - an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That's pretty magnanimous.

Okay. Sorry about that. Had to step out and re-log in.

Obama is hitting McCain all about the face and genitals right now. "So I'll say this - there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them."

And: "John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy - cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota - he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for."

Obama is making it clear that he has marked St. Paul as his territory: "The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate the American people deserve. But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon - that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize."

"This was the moment..." forms Obama's closing refrain, and the crowd goes absolutely crazy. Soundtrack choice: Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising," which I fear will one day find it's way onto one of those K-TEL compilations as well.

I have to applaud Yglesias' smackdown of Harold Ford: "I thought it was strange that Harold Ford's on MSNBC right now deliberately sabotaging the Democratic Party, lavishly praising John McCain and McCain's speech. Then I remembered that Ford took over as head of the DLC so boosting the GOP is part of his job."

Matt, by the way, has written an excellent book on foreign policy called Heads In The Sand that I deem to be required reading for all Democrats this year. Why not do as I did, and read it after Right Is Wrong! (I'm now reading All The Sad Young Literary Men, because my wife insists that I should read more novels. She's right, of course.)

As long as I'm plugging books, I might as well say that the next time you are at the Cabell Library of Virginia Commonwealth University, you should check out my thesis, Cultivating A Talent. Thrill to the science of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter! Marvel at the fact that I wrote the damn thing exclusively between the hours of midnight and six in the morning. Wonder at how I managed to produce 110 pages! I still haven't figured that out.

Can you believe that three thousand Republicans in South Dakota woke up today and went to the polls to cast votes for Mike Huckabee? YES YOU CAN!

Now on the Obama soundtrack: Angels and Airwaves. I'm really not sure how I feel about a candidate standing on the work of the new "earnest" version of blink-182. Naturally, I have a great affinity for the rock of Minneapolis. I'm not sure there's a good context, though, to play a Replacements song..."I Will Dare" maybe? "We're Coming Out"? I'd set "Bastards of Young" to just about anything. "Celebrated Summer" by Husker Du would do the trick for me, too. Or anything by Prince. Or, even better, Morris Day and the Time. Come on, HuffPo community! Are you feeling me! STAND UP, MORRIS DAY AND THE TIME FANS!

Pronoun count in Obama's speech: I/me, 22 instances. We/us/our: 80 instances.

And I think the we/us/our is the place to leave this tonight. Here's my awkward and ineloquent "really deep thought" for the night. If we are, actually at the end of this thing, and at some point in the near future, Obama and Clinton will have to carefully finesse an alliance, remember, that's the stuff of politicians. That's for them to do. Obama's won this nomination. But before you Obama supporters start reaching out to Clinton supporters to "join you," remember this: at the end of the day, you're all Democrats, and you don't need to ask anyone to "join" a cause that they never abandoned.

The general election is on. Knives are out, people. Protect your necks. And look forward now, to your nominee delivering his speech at the Democratic National Convention on the 45th Anniversary of another important piece of oration. Ever get the feeling that some things were maybe meant to be?

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