Forget "Tonya Harding." With the latest NBC/WSJ poll , it is becoming even more evident -- this campaign is turning into a murder-suicide. Chris Dodd sees it. Howard Dean sees it. Superdelegates see it. I wrote about it more than a week ago in the Philly Daily News.
On one hand, you have the Clinton attacks which clearly are having a negative effect on Barack Obama (though he's shown an ability to rebound slightly). That's the intended effect -- drive his numbers down as much as possible, so that superdelegates see him as unelectable. And, indeed, his general election numbers aren't as good as they once were, as John McCain is quickly gaining ground.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's numbers are bottoming out pretty quick, also in response to her 'kitchen sink' strategy -- turning off white Democratic voters (dropping from a 12 point lead to an 8 point lead against Obama) and white voters overall (with a 51% negative rating); collapsing numbers among all voters (down to just 37% positive rating); and even losing women at a fast clip (dropping from 51% positive rating to 42% in just one month!) And despite all the attacks on Obama, she still isn't beating McCain, in the latest poll.
In short, while she's clearly pierced Obama with a bullet or two, Hillary Clinton's turned the gun on herself as well. The question now is whether someone -- anyone -- will step in and stop a murder-suicide in progress.
The problem is that while many superdelegates who are uncommitted have no problem expressing their frustration in unattributed quotes, none of them wants to stick their neck out, and face any political blowback. However, if the remaining uncommitted superdelegates step forward together, with a singular proposal to end this crime against the Democratic party, their numbers are just too great for any politician, even the Clintons, to exact revenge. Think of it as the electoral equivalent of the so called "gangs" in Congress - the "Gang of Eleven," the "Gang of Fourteen," and so on. Call it the "Gang of 300."
They must put forth a compromise plan, which addresses the reasons that Clinton is staying in the race, but also addresses the political reality. The reality, of course, is that there is no path to a straight up advantage over Obama after all the primaries are done. She won't win more states, won't win more pledged delegates, won't win more of the popular vote. Her reason for staying in, however, is that maybe there will be something that happens that makes Obama completely and utterly unelectable, and he'll be forced out of the race, while she picks up the torch.
Addressing both angles, here is a reasonable and fair proposal that allows Democrats to move ahead together, and not continue to sabotage a win in November:
1) Unless Hillary Clinton wins with more than 65 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania (which would put her on some kind of path to a real advantage over Obama in Denver), the 300+ remaining superdelegates pledge to all endorse Senator Obama.
2) These superdelegates, however, do not call on Hillary Clinton to "drop-out" of the race, but merely suspend her campaign, and not release her delegates. Nor do they call on her to endorse Senator Obama, yet. However, they do call on her to stop campaigning "against" Obama, and stop campaigning period, allowing the party to make up the losses it's sustained to McCain in every poll.
3) Should Obama face a situation that makes him completely unelectable before the convention, that should be self-evident, and he will end his campaign. Think along the lines of Spitzer or McGreevey. If he ends his campaign, she has the nomination. However, if he becomes completely unelectable before the nomination and refuses to drop-out of the race, this gang of 300 will hold its own vote. If a supermajority of them (2/3rds) vote among themselves that he has become unelectable, the whole of the group will move, en masse, to Hillary Clinton, and urge all other superdelegates to do the same. Essentially, this would be such a PR hit that it would knock Obama out of the race, if he refuses to leave on his own accord.
Such a plan would put an end to the Dem-on-Dem violence, and allow the party to begin to heal, but leave a path to victory for Hillary Clinton, which all hinges on what her own campaign admits is her only chance -- that Obama self-destructs. During this time of her "suspended" campaign, she also wouldn't have to spend any money, but could continue fundraising, replenishing her empty coffers and have it at the ready, in case the party calls on her to step in and replace Obama as its presumptive nominee.
Would the candidates agree to such a deal? Not if you just asked them, because it's not an ideal solution for either. But if 300 superdelegates agreed to this, presented it as a group, and moved to end the self-destruction, it would force the candidates and the party to accept the plan. They would have no other choice.
What of the voters who tell pollsters the campaign should go on? I'd love for one pollster to present them with a choice -- continue the campaign, or risk losing in November? I bet you anything the overwhelming majority of voters would sacrifice an active primary to help their chances in November. But, no one has asked that question.
Nearly everyone in the party is now looking for a way to begin the campaign against John McCain. It's time for the uncommitted superdelegates to do what the party created them to do in the first place -- inject a dose of clear, cold sanity in a crazy and destructive campaign.