The long-awaited superdelegate flood sinks Clinton down to the waterline.

Down and on the way out.
June 3 2008 4:12 PM

The Hillary Deathwatch

The long-awaited superdelegate flood sinks Clinton down to the waterline.

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Campaigning yesterday in Milbank, S.D., Bill Clinton effectively declared the race over, saying, "[T]his may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind." Clinton's advance team was told its work was done. Her schedule remains empty after Tuesday night. Even if she doesn't bid farewell tonight, Clinton and everyone around her know her chances are a near-nothing of 0.1 percent. (It would be zero, but she still hasn't dropped out.) She is asymptotically dead.

So today is less about what than how. How Obama is going to roll out the necessary delegates to reach the "magic number" of 2,118. How (and when) Clinton is officially going to concede. How she is going to transition into the "healing" phase of the general election.

Still, the day's news has been an ongoing game of "will she or won't she?" This morning, the Associated Press reported that Clinton campaign officials said she would concede Tuesday night that Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. The Clinton camp quickly denied the report. (Disagreement in Hillaryland? Never!) So the AP took a different tack, declaring the race over based on a tally of public commitments and "more than a dozen private commitments." But seeing as the superdelegate metric has always been about public commitments, it's unclear why that's news.

Talk of a superdelegate "flood" has bubbled up before just about every primary, but today's surge looks like the real deal. Obama continues to trot out superdelegates after reports that he spent Monday lining up endorsements. Debbie Dingell of Michigan and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn declared their support today, Jimmy Carter is endorsing Obama tonight, and proverbial fat lady Nancy Pelosi is expected to sing soon after. That makes 10 supers (and counting) for the day, putting Obama 30.5 delegates away from the nomination. If Obama snaps up half of Montana's and South Dakota's combined 31 pledged delegates today, he'll need only another 15 or so endorsements to give him the nomination.

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Of course, there's a difference between winning the majority of delegates and winning the nomination—according to Clinton, at least. Tonight, Clinton is expected to acknowledge Obama's delegate win but stop short of suspending her campaign. That might sound like a distinction without a difference, but Clinton has said she "reserves the right" to challenge the DNC's Michigan decision in front of the Credentials Committee in June. No words make Howard Dean quake in fear quite like "brokered convention." But it's hard to imagine that scenario playing out when Democrats, the media, and even John McCain have united to declare Barack Obama the Democratic nominee.

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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