The Hillary Deathwatch
A Clinton traitor is in Obama's midst. Plus: The gas tax pollutes Hillary's campaign.
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Obama woos a superdelegate away from Clinton, Hillary's own supporters dislike her gas-tax holiday, and new polls suggest the Obama-Clinton split is getting deeper but that Democrats are still likely to win the White House. Clinton dives half a point to 12.1 percent.
Former DNC chair Joe Andrew sounded a clarion call for superdelegates by endorsing Barack Obama today. Andrew is an impressive get because he's the kind of establishment Democrat that Obama could win over only by brute political and mathematical force. (Not to mention he has two first names.) In an interview with the Associated Press, Andrew said that Obama wisely rejected the gas-tax holiday and deftly handled the Rev. Wright imbroglio and that it was time to heal the rift in the Democratic Party.
Any time a superdelegate publicly shifts from one candidate to another, it's major news. But Andrew's endorsement is especially important for Obama at this juncture. According to polls, Clinton is closing in on him in North Carolina, and she's the tentative front-runner in Indiana. On balance, superdelegates have continued to trickle toward him at a quicker rate. But equipped with a high-profile flip, Obama can show—rather than tell—superdelegates that it's time to move on from Rev. Wright and Obama's "bitter" comments.
Meanwhile, the gas-tax issue still leads this week's news—policy alert!—and experts are roundly panning Clinton's and McCain's stances on the issue. Making matters worse for Clinton, the Obama campaign is pointing out that staunch Clinton supporter New York Gov. David Paterson agrees with Obama on this one. Candidates are bound to have disagreements with their supporters, but even minor dissention can remind superdelegates of other Clinton infighting.
Back to the polls, Democrats are growing increasingly partisan within their own party. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reports that 30 percent of Clinton supporters won't vote for Obama in the general election if he's the nominee and 22 percent of Obama folks won't swing Clinton's way. On its face, this is a potentially ripe datum for Hillary—more Democrats won't vote for the Democratic nominee if Obama is the chosen one.
But once you explore the poll further, you realize that those numbers may not mean much. Fifty-three percent of surveyed voters want a Democrat to become president; 33 percent say they'd prefer a Republican. Based on that metric, it seems that regardless of who the nominee is, the Democrats will win. But that, of course, is also hogwash, especially considering McCain's neck-and-neck polls with both Democrats. The moral of the story, as always, is that polling only makes us more confused.
Illustration by Rob Donnelly.