Friday, February 15, 2008


This One's Gotta Leave A Mark

Any minor happiness that Hillary Clinton might have gained from finally having New Mexico called for her (though it doesn't really change the delegate margin), must be completely crushed by the announcement from Rep. John Lewis -- one of her supporters -- that he would cast his superdelegate vote for Barack Obama.

Josh Marshall makes a
couple of good observations on why this particular switch hurts Hillary Clinton:

In the thick of a campaign it is easy to overrate the importance of an endorsement or a political hit. But it is difficult to overstate the significance of John Lewis' switch from the Clinton to Obama camps because it is a devastating blow on two or three levels wrapped together in a single person. Lewis' historic and moral stature in the African-American community and in the modern Democratic party bulks very large. “In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” Lewis told the Times. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.” This is a curious statement as he seems to be suggesting that his earlier endorsement of Clinton was based on his own failure to set his sights sufficiently high. What's more, the willingness of a high-profile politician not simply to endorse one candidate but to switch from one to another (at least in terms of who he
believes he'll vote for as a super delegate) is a powerful sign that a tipping
point is at hand.

But the most immediate and significant import is Lewis's signal that whatever the basis of his original endorsement he is unwilling to join Clinton in carving a path to the nomination through the heart of the Democratic party. The tell in Lewis's announcement is that he is not technically withdrawing his endorsement from Hillary, at least not yet. He is saying that as a super delegate (which is by virtue of being a member of Congress) he plans to vote for Obama at the convention. On Wednesday the Clinton camp started pushing hard on the idea that a delegate is a delegate and if they need to pack on super delegates to overwhelm Obama's edge with elected delegates then so be it. A win is a win is a win. I take this as Lewis saying he just won't sign on for that.

There's also a sense that this decision might be indication of more fallout from the Clintons' disastrous South Carolina strategy and the raw divisiveness it engendered -- including Bill's dismissal of the results by comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson.

A very tough development for Hillary -- however, as we've said before, in this particular year the "emerging conventional wisdom" gets proven wrong time and again. The current one is that "Hillary is dead; it's definitely going to be Obama." While my posts earlier this week were 1) reflective of Obama's obvious wins and momentum and 2) feeling the "Obama wave", I think it is important to recognize that a lot can happen between now and the last Democratic primary in June.

UPDATE: Back and forth today on whether Rep. Lewis has indeed switched his vote. Ben Smith and Greg Sargent try to explain it all. Actually, to clarify, the question is whether Lewis' endorsement of Hillary, but his decision to cast his superdelegate vote for Obama qualifies as a switch in support. Got that?

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