In a telephone press conference yesterday morning, Roy Romer -- a former Colorado governor, former Democratic National Committee ("DNC") chair, co-chairman of the 1996 Clinton-Gore reelection campaign, and a superdelegate -- announced his endorsement of Barack Obama as the Democratic Presidential nominee. Despite what he called "affection for Senator Clinton," Romer said that "[t]he math is controlling. This race is over, over. Sen Obama has accumulated a lead in caucuses, primaries, and superdelegates that cannot be overcome."
Redrawing the Electoral Map: Romer explained that his endorsement was based largely on his belief that Obama has a better chance of beating McCain in November, which he said Obama could do using a different electoral map than the one Democrats have used in the last few elections and which Clinton is continuing to advocate: "As I watched the campaign unfold it was obvious there was a different kind of winning possibility that Senator Obama was presenting to the party.... This nation is evolving. Colorado is one of those states you call a red state... [but] I don't think Colorado is the same state it was 20 years ago. I think we need to get out of the straight jacket, 'this is a red state, this is a blue state'.... We need a candidate who can appeal to the evolving nature of U.S. politics." Obama campaign manager David Plouffe added, "we've won a heck of a lot of battleground states," including Washington, Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina, and stated that Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, and North Dakota "all could be competitive in the fall."
Not Pressuring Clinton, Just Giving Her Information... Romer denied that his announcement was intended to put pressure on Sen. Clinton to drop out of the race, explaining that his goal instead was to eliminate any uncertainty about where he stood so that Clinton had more information on which she could base her own decision, and calling on other undeclared superdelegates to do the same: "All superdelegates would help the party by making [their endorsements] known as quickly as they can. That's not forcing [the Clinton campaign] out of the race, that's giving them facts that they can then base their own decisions on." He later added, "it's important for her [Clinton] to know where we [superdelegates] are so she's not misled."
... But the Information Says the Race Is Over: However, Romer also believes the time has come for Clinton to make a decision about whether the nomination is achievable. While the extended primary campaign has helped the party in some ways, Romer added that "there is a time that we need to end it and to direct ourselves to the general election. I think that time is now.... At some point in time all of us have got to say, 'where are the numbers? where is the math?'"
Michigan and Florida: Seat, But With Consequences: As a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, Romer also had firm opinions about the contentious issue of seating delegations from Michigan and Florida, which the DNC's Rules & Bylaws Committee unanimously voted to disqualify after those states tried to increase their influence in the primary process by moving their elections to dates earlier than those allowed by DNC rules. Romer said, "I was chair of the party. The party has to set rules, and the party has to have some control over the timing of the primary races... you can't just excuse that and say everybody has the same delegates they used to have." He added, "They need to be seated, but there needs to be a penalty for failing to follow the rules" in order to preserve the party's ability to set primary schedules in the future: "This party has got to find a solution to seat those delegates, but it's got to do that in a way that says to all states in the future that we mean business when we say there are rules... you can't have a party that's effective in modern politics unless you have rules that you can enforce."
Plouffe also observed that the Clinton campaign, not the Obama campaign, was blocking the resolution of the Michigan problem: "The Michigan and Florida situation will be resolved. There is a proposal from Michigan.... [and] we're open to that proposal. [But] the Clinton campaign rejected it out of hand." (The current Michigan proposal would give Clinton a net of ten more delegates than Obama.) Plouffe added that he does not believe Obama will be unable to compete in those states in the general election, citing polls showing Obama beating McCain in Michigan and running even with him in Florida.
Defining, and Approaching, the Finish Line: Plouffe also ruled out the possibility of the Obama campaign "declaring victory" after winning the majority of pledged delegates, which probably will occur during the Oregon primary on May 20. Plouffe said that winning the majority of pledged delegates would be "an important moment" because it will reflect "the will of the voters" and because most superdelegates have said they will endorse the candidate who wins the pledged delegate race. However, he denied that the campaign would be over at that point: "we're definitely not going to declare victory... we still have three contests after that."
Instead, the Obama campaign will continue until it reaches 2,025 delegates, which Plouffe said was close: Obama is only 147 delegates short at this point, which Plouffe characterized as "a very achievable number." Ever since the Indiana and North Carolina primaries last week, the Obama campaign has been portraying the race less as a head-to-head, state-by-state matchup between the two candidates and more as a countdown to a 2,025-delegate finish line. In today's teleconference, Plouffe said that "our focus is on getting to that 2,025 number as quickly as we can."
Not Poaching Superdelegates: Plouffe was asked to comment on the decision by Maryland superdelegate Jack Johnson to switch from Clinton to Obama; he replied, "Sen. Clinton's camp has said on occasion that [even] pledged delegates are fair game... [but] we have not approached any of her delegates" to persuade them to defect. He added that Johnson "made that decision on his own."
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