Why Clinton Must Stay In The Race

04/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

There is now no chance for Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. Even if she wins every remaining primary by a substantial margin, she will still lose the pledged delegate contest, and it is impossible to imagine that a supermajority of the superdelegates would destroy their own party in order to nominate her.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely essential for Hillary Clinton to remain in this presidential race until she loses a major primary. This means that she should not withdraw from the race unless she loses in Pennsylvania, Indiana, or North Carolina.

Pat Leahy and others who call for her to Hillary Clinton to bow out early are wrong. Unity in the Democratic Party will not be achieved by capitulation. It can only be achieved by the universal recognition of Obama's victory. And that will only happen after Clinton loses a state.

However, Hillary Clinton does have a choice about how she chooses to run her campaign. Much as Mike Huckabee ran a token but honorable race against John McCain, formally staying in the race but refusing to go negative, Clinton can compete with Barack Obama without trying to undermine the next Democratic nominee for president.

In addition, Hillary Clinton can put her campaign on the line by declaring that she will withdraw if she loses one of these three primaries. This way, no one can suspect any kind of backroom pressure on Clinton to end her campaign. And the talk of having her withdraw will subside as attention is put on these three states.

Ironically, the unity of the Democratic Party requires that Clinton must remain in the race for another month, until she loses and the inevitable becomes apparent to her strongest supporters. Clinton's supporters will feel strong resentment against Obama if they feel that his supporters pressured Clinton to end her campaign early. By contrast, that resentment will disappear if Obama can prove his decisive victory by winning again.

It's not just the feelings of Clinton supporters that we should worry about. The worst thing for Obama right now would be to win by default. A win by forfeit only weakens the winner in the realm of politics. By contrast, Obama's victory over Clinton would establish momentum showing his ability to defeat a powerful political machine.

Of course, there is a possibility, albeit very small, that Clinton could win and keep winning. It is essentially impossible for Clinton to win the majority of pledged delegates. If this happens, then the superdelegates will have to make a public decision after June 3, before the convention, to embrace the winner of the pledged delegates. However, unless Clinton makes a shocking comeback in North Carolina, Oregon, and Montana, all of this speculation will be moot.

However, it is absolutely essential for Clinton to withdraw when she loses the next state. This race must not go "all the way to the convention" as Hillary declares. If she loses again and refuses to bow out, then it is time to demand the end of her campaign, and for everyone to step up and call for her to face reality.

Kos has argued that nobody can tell Clinton when to withdraw. That's not true. There needs to be a consensus of the public and the politicians that Clinton must withdraw when she loses again, and not take an inevitably futile campaign to the convention. But she must wait until losing before she ends this race.

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Obamapolitics.