For quite some time, I have been privately forecasting a Hillary Clinton victory in the Democratic presidential nomination contest.
Today, I am going public - I anticipate that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party's 2008 nominee.
It is comments like this one, from Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, that convince me the tide has turned:
[Superdelegates] have every right to overturn the popular vote and choose the candidate they believe would be best equipped to defeat John McCain in a general election. . . If it's very very close, they will do what they want anyway. . . I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.
The numbers are now close and very clear.
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will emerge from the primary elections with a decisive advantage in elected delegates or popular vote. The primaries will not break the current deadlock.
In spite of months of relentless spin from Mr. Obama's surrogates - spin that has had much traction in the political media - that purported to narrow or bind the free votes of superdelegates at the actual convention, Mr. Dean's comments speak the truth.
Superdelegate votes will ultimately be cast based on what is happening on the ground at the time of the convention.
While anything can change, and it still may, it seems most likely that the Clinton campaign will continue to build momentum and peak in the final weeks of the primary season, just in time for the party's August 25 -28 convention in Denver.
The increasingly desperate and divisive pronouncements of Mr. Obama's supporters are not helping. Yesterday's attacks by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, as reported by CNN, are a case in point:
Clyburn told the newspaper that many African-Americans believed the Clintons were trying to damage Obama to the point where he could not be elected. He also made similar comments in an interview with Reuters Thursday.
"There are African Americans who have reached the decision that the Clintons know that she can’t win this," he told Reuters. "But they’re hell-bound to make it impossible for Obama to win.”
Speaking with the New York Times, Clyburn said such actions could lead to a longtime division between the former president and his once most reliable constituency.
“When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar,” Clyburn said. “I think black folks feel strongly that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation.”
Efforts by Mr. Clyburn and others to play a 'race card' against Mrs. Clinton and her husband are a shameless insult to history.
Beyond that, such tactics are likely to backfire by further alienating the very Democrats that Mr. Obama has, to date, had so much difficulty convincing.
As the certainty of an Obama nomination declines, his campaign must temper the temptation of some surrogates to employ their own a 'scorched-earth' game plan that sullies and undermines an ultimate Hillary Clinton candidacy, and in the process, instigates dangerous racial discord in the nation.
And while Mr. Obama should by no means be conceding defeat at this point, perhaps he must begin considering the Audacity of the Vice-Presidency.
For it is Mr. Obama alone that will be in position to unify the party and the nation, if, as I now expect, he emerges from the Convention as a very close, but much-admired, runner-up.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto