Obama won't declare victory on Tuesday, but the media will.

Down and on the way out.
May 19 2008 2:30 PM

The Hillary Deathwatch

Obama won't declare victory on Tuesday, but the media will.

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Obama won't declare victory after Tuesday, but only because the media will do it for him. Clinton's chances sag another 0.1 point to 1.6 percent.

Despite reports that Barack Obama would declare victory after May 20, when he's expected to secure a majority of pledged delegates, he's now expected to keep mum. The reason: Better to let Clinton exit with dignity than to appear to be forcing her out of the race. This logic reflects the Obama camp's supreme confidence that the nomination is in the bag.

Media outlets seem to agree. Just look at today's top New York Times headlines. "McCain To Rely on Party Money Against Obama" doesn't even pretend not to know who the nominee will be. Another piece examines what a Clinton loss means for women: It's either "a historic if incomplete triumph or a depressing reminder of why few pursue high office in the first place." Look for more postmortems after Tuesday's race, barring a Clinton sweep.

But right now, a dramatic outcome looks unlikely. New polls out of Kentucky and Oregon predict a Clinton rout and an Obama win, respectively. Suffolk University has Clinton leading in Kentucky with 51 percent to Obama's 25 percent—not as devastating her 41-point West Virginia thumping, but still respectable. Obama leads in Oregon, 45 percent to 41 percent—tight enough to make Obama supporters squirm, given the poll's four-point margin of error, but not to predict a Clinton upset.

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As if to rub in the "presumptive nominee" story, Obama held the largest rally of the campaign on Sunday, with 75,000 people cramming onto Portland's waterfront. (Although we'd guess a good chunk of them were there to see the beloved Portland band The Decemberists.)

Superdelegates, meanwhile, still trend in Obama's direction. Obama nabbed six over the weekend to Clinton's three. But five of them are California add-ons, which don't exactly count as endorsements, since they were allocated roughly according to the state's vote.

To reiterate—it's helpful to do this every week or so—Clinton's path looks something like this: Win huge in the remaining states (a massive margin in Kentucky and an upset in Oregon), close Obama's 700,000-vote lead in the popular tally (without counting Florida and Michigan), and marshal these numbers to persuade superdelegates of Obama's unelectability. Piece of cake.

For a full list of our Deathwatches, click here. For a primer on Hillary's sinking ship, visit our first Deathwatch entry. Send your own prognostications to hillarydeathwatch@gmail.com.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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