Why Hillary Won’t Drop Out

A campaign blog.
May 7 2008 1:21 AM

Why Hillary Won’t Drop Out

In tonight’s Deathwatch , I asked, "Clinton pledged to stay in the race. The question is, why?"

The answer is pretty clear, I now realize, if you look at the upcoming primary calendar . Next Tuesday, West Virginia votes. Polls are sparse , but Clinton is expected to win. A week later comes Kentucky, where Clinton has a massive lead , and Oregon, where Obama is favored . That’s two potentially wide victories for Clinton in two weeks.

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It won’t help her numbers much. West Virginia and Kentucky have only 99 delegates combined (pledged and unpledged), while Oregon has 65, so she isn’t going to rack up many delegates. Likewise, she won’t significantly close Obama’s popular-vote lead.

But for Clinton, the nomination isn’t about numbers anymore. There’s no metric by which she can plausibly win , even if Florida and Michigan are counted. Now it’s about derailing Obama or waiting for him to derail himself. Clinton has come this far; why not ride out this rough patch—however many people call for her to drop out—and see what happens?

Worst-case scenario, she spends a few million more dollars and drops out in late May or early June. (Remember how long Huckabee stuck around, just to see what happened?) Better that than drop out tomorrow, only to have some damning revelation about Obama emerge over the next month. Clinton paints herself as a fighter, but her best shot at the nomination is now less about fighting than waiting.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.