Hillary Clinton's camp disputed an AP report out today that Clinton will concede the race to Barack Obama tonight.
AP: "Hillary Rodham Clinton will concede Tuesday night that Barack Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, effectively ending her bid to be the nation's first female president."
According to the article, Clinton "will stop short of formally suspending or ending her race in her speech." She "will pledge to continue to speak out on issues like health care. But for all intents and purposes, the two senior officials said, the campaign is over" (6/3).
Clinton campaign statement: "The AP story is incorrect. Senator Clinton will not concede the nomination this evening" (Hotline reporting, 6/3). Clinton camp chair Terry McAuliffe called the AP report "100 percent" incorrect, telling CNN that Obama "doesn't have the numbers today, and until someone has the numbers the race goes on" ("Political Ticker," 6/3).
Wanted: Soft Landing
Media reports generally agree that Clinton will not concede tonight, but will likely suspend her active campaign and visit key general election states in the weeks to come:
Clinton has summoned fundraisers and other supporters to an election-night rally in NYC "where, aides said, she was prepared to deliver what they described as a farewell speech that summed up the case for her candidacy." They said Clinton "was not likely to withdraw from the race" tonight, probably waiting until later in the week, once Barack Obama's "victory appeared clear" (Nagourney, New York Times, 6/3).
After the elections tonight, Clinton "aides and supporters said, she will spend a few days reviewing her options and talking to superdelegates, supporters and donors." She isn't withdrawing, a Clinton aide said, "but we're slowing down this process" (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 6/3).
Advisers "said she is looking at historical precedent while weighing her recent victories, including her landslide win in Puerto Rico, in trying to sort out what to do." Clinton "has been angered by recent calls for her to quit, her advisers said, and the 'soft landing' of suspending her campaign would allow her to move ahead on her own terms" (Murray/Kornblut, Washington Post, 6/3).
Camp spokesperson Mo Elleithee denied that Clinton will withdraw tonight, saying: "We do not expect that a nominee will be clear tomorrow night." A top staffer said 6/2: "Nobody can tell her it's over. She'll figure it out" (Calmes, Wall Street Journal, 6/3).
Give It To Me Straight, Doc. She's Got No Chance, Right?
Reporters have spent the last 24 hours searching for clues that Clinton's camp is over:
•Clinton "called on her top donors and supporters to attend her speech in Manhattan. While the Clinton campaign says such invitations have been common on primary nights, many saw it as a sign that she could withdraw from the race."
•Clinton staffers responsible for organizing on-the-ground operations in the final primary states have been summoned back to NYC for the rally. The camp "denies that the staffers are being laid off." Elleithee says the staffers can either go home and "chill out for a couple of days" or come to NY "for the party and pay their own way back home until the campaign comes up with a plan for the next several days" (Calmes, Wall Street Journal, 6/3).
•Speaking before an audience in Milbank, SD, Bill Clinton said: "This may be the last day I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind" (mult, 6/2).
•Clinton's camp "has scheduled no events beyond a speech" 6/4 in DC. Clinton "aides considered and rejected a plan to have her campaign later this week in states that will be important in the general election" (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 6/3).
•Current and ex-HRC staffers are being urged "to turn in their outstanding expense receipts by the end of the week" (Amdiner, "Atlantic Online," 6/2).
•Slate's Dickerson writes, Clinton staffers "are sending out personal contact information the way people do before they're about to be out of a job" (6/3).
•In a 6/2 conference call with donors, adviser Harold Ickes said Clinton "almost certainly would not appeal" the 5/31 rule's cmte decosopn on MI (AP, 6/3).
•NBC's Mitchell: "Harold Ickes in his interview with me today said that it is symbolic that it began in New York and it will end in New York. New York is where she's having her rally tomorrow night. ... Despite denials, advance teams have been told to stand down because the Clinton team will not need them after tomorrow night. ... I would say that ... tomorrow night is definitely the last campaign event" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 6/2).
•Newsweek's Wolffe: "Look at the tone of the campaign aides when they're not speaking on camera and it's not public. People are talking about what they're going to do next and it's not fighting the general election. It's about what jobs they are going to have, whether they're going to take a break. ... We all know where this is headed" ("Countdown," MSNBC, 6/2).
History Of The Mystery
However, there were also some clues indicating Clinton is staying put:
•Clinton sr. adviser Maria Cardona: "She is not ready to pull out. Look, we don't have a nominee yet. ... She is in New York tomorrow. There should be no indication other than this is where she started the process, this is where she's going to end the process. She wants all of her backers there with her. She's run a terrific campaign in the last three months. She's actually won more contests, more votes, more delegates than Senator Obama. She's going to continue making these arguments to the superdelegates" ("Verdict," MSNBC, 6/2).
•Clinton supporter/Dem strategist James Carville: "I don't think she's going to suspend the campaign tonight. If she doesn't do well, then I'm sure that, tomorrow morning, if she said she's not going to do anything to hurt the party, I'm sure the calculus tomorrow morning may very well be different than the calculus this morning" ("American Morning," CNN, 6/3).
•And at a rally in SD last night, Clinton "told supporters she would make her case to superdelegates 'over the coming days,' suggesting that a departure from the race was not imminent" (Berman, New York Sun, 6/3).
•Despite call for her to step aside, "Clinton remained steadfast" 6/2, almost "defiant. To squelch drop-out rumors, she sent a spokesman on her campaign plane to say she wouldn't be quitting but would take her case to the 200-plus superdelegates who will decide her fate" (Thrush/Brune, Newsday, 6/3).
•According to a source, the Clintons "are considering more seriously than you'd imagine" taking the fight to the party's credentials cmte (New York Daily News, 6/3).
•State finance cmtes "are circulating letters to deliver to Clinton" today which stresses their support, a fight until the convention, and a resolution in "August, and no earlier." Letter: "The automatic delegates can change their mind up until their vote at the convention, and that is why this nominating process must be resolved in August, and no earlier" (Smith, Politico.com, 6/3).
•Clinton TX chair Garry Mauro insisted that regardless of what happens in today's primaries, Clinton "won't quit" her race for the nomination by this weekend. Mauro: "She is not quitting." Furthermore, Mauro said, he expects Clinton to speak at this weekend's TX Dem state convention in Austin (Selby, Austin American-Statesman, 6/2).
Sick And Tired And Slightly Drunk
A "tireless campaigner who rarely trips over lines while mixing up and hammering on her well-worn talking points," Clinton's voice "gave out and she made a rare gaffe" while introducing a local pol at a 6/2 rally in Yankton, SD. After Clinton incorrectly thanked Curt Bernard instead of the town's mayor Dan Specht the crowd corrected her. Clinton: "Oh! Dan Specht? Right? I got the wrong list, I don't know who the other gentleman is, but I hope I haven't offended him" (Phillips, "Washington Wire," 6/2).
Apparently, the "other gentleman -- Bernard-- was Yankton's ex-mayor, who had been recalled in December "amid accusations of misconduct, oppression and micromanagement" (AP, 6/3).
Clinton also "began to lose her voice" during the rally. After reaching for water and popping lozenges, Clinton was forced to hand over the mic to Chelsea "while she took a drink." When Clinton resumed her speech, she "again began to cough uncontrollably" -- at which point she asked the crowd if it was okay for her to go backstage to "gargle a little bit" (Suarez, "From the Road," 6/2).
B. Clinton spokesperson Jay Carson issued a statement late 6/2 saying Clinton "wishes he had not" called Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum "sleazy," "dishonest," "slimy," and a "scumbag." Clinton made the comments at a SD campaign event 6/2, after being asked him "if Purdum's much-commented upon Vanity Fair story was weighing on his mind."
Clinton, on Purdum: "He's a real sleazy guy. He's a really dishonest reporter." When reminded that Purdum is the husband of his ex-press sec Dee Dee Myers, Clinton sniped: "That's all right-- he's still a scumbag."
Clinton, on Purdum: "He wrote the story in his head in advance, and he just goes around and tries to find some coward to say whatever they want to say." More: "You know he didn't use a single name, cite a single source in all those things he said. It's just slimy."
Clinton: "It's part of the national media's attempt to nail Hillary for Obama. It's just the most biased press coverage in history. It's another way of helping Obama. They had all these people standing up in this church cheering, calling Hillary a white racist, and he didn't do anything about it. The first day he said 'Ah, ah, ah well.' Because that's what they do-- he gets other people to slime her. So then they saw the movie they thought this is a great ad for John McCain-- maybe I better quit the church. It's all politics. It's all about the bias of the media for Obama. Don't think anything about it."
More Clinton: "But I'm telling ya, all it's doing is driving her supporters further and further away-- because they know exactly what it is-- this has been the most rigged press coverage in modern history-- and the guy ought to be ashamed of himself. But he has no shame. It isn't the first dishonest piece he's written about me or her."
Still going: "Anytime you read a story that slimes a public figure with anonymous quotes, it oughta make the bells go off in your head. Because anytime somebody uses those things-- he wrote the story in his head in advance, and he just goes around and tries to find some coward to say whatever they want to say, hoping to get some benefit out of it. It didn't bother me. It shouldn't bother you"(Fowler, "Huffington Post," 6/2).
Bonfire Of The Vanities
The Vanity Fair article and Clinton's reaction to the piece received extensive coverage on cable news:
•CNBC's Harwood: "Bill Clinton was plenty mad for the coverage of this campaign. Todd has now guaranteed that the focus is going to be on him when Mount Vesuvius erupts. ... There's no question, he's been way up and down during the course of this campaign, done some things that hurt her pretty badly and may have hurt his ability to do good in the rest of the world" ("Race for the WH," MSNBC, 6/2).
•Dem strategist Hilary Rosen: "Charges like these are almost apocryphal when it comes to President Clinton" ("Election Center," CNN, 6/2).
•BET's Gentry: "It's unnamed sources. ... To write an article that long and not name anyone is questionable. But I think what really amused me about the entire article was reading the rebuttal from the Clinton camp. It was just too much. I mean, who rebuttals, you know, four pages? ... It almost verified some of the things in the article that I was questioning" ("On the Record," FNC, 6/2).
•Dick Morris, on Vanity Fair: "When these guys want to do a story on you, take cover" ("Hannity & Colmes," FNC, 6/2).
•Clinton sr. adviser Maria Cardona: "I think that the former president has a reason here to be upset. It's bad journalism. It's not going to stand up in terms of journalistic standards" ("Verdict," MSNBC, 6/2).
•Dem strategist James Carville: "Todd Purdum is a friend of mine. I've been crazy about Dee Dee. I think ... this is just regurgitation of stuff. All this bunk feeds off everything else. ... I think Todd's an honorable guy. [Vanity Fair has] got a history of getting involved in a lot of Hollywood stuff. I just let this go in one ear and go out the other. It doesn't amount to a whole lot."
•Carville, on Clinton calling Purdum a "scumbag": "I would have used different language, but I think his anger was eminently justified. ... This is nothing but a compilation drunk cocktail party Washington dinner party talk and that's about it" ("LKL," CNN, 6/2).
•Ex-WH adviser David Gergen, on Clinton calling Purdum a "scumbag": "I think he's angry about the piece, but I think Bill Clinton, in his quieter moments, would not want to say those kind of things. I do think it raises complications for the larger looming question of whether there might be a dream ticket of Obama and Hillary Clinton. ... Because the question about the dream ticket partly revolves around, how about Bill? How does he fit into the picture? If you're Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office, is Bill Clinton going to go off, like Vesuvius, at some point? ... Comments like this really do not help" ("AC 360," CNN, 6/2).
•Clinton chair Terry McAuliffe: "I think that article was disgusting. ... Supposedly the reporter talked to 50 people. I find it outrageous that he doesn't quote one person on the record. I'm one of the president's closest friends. I've spent more time with him probably than anybody else in his post presidency. I never got a phone call from the reporter. So why did this come out the weekend before the last contest, an attack piece without naming one single source?" ("Today," NBC, 6/3).
•CBS' Greenfield, on B. Clinton saying Obama uses other people to slime Clinton: "A lot of Clinton people believe that she's been treated very unfairly by the media, but the idea that the Obama people were pleased by Father Pfleger's appearance ... as opposed to being severely wounded by that, that's probably a little sign of how strong Bill Clinton feels about all of this" ("Early Show," 6/3).
•Laura Ingraham: "This could have been written any time. And what now the Clintons are learning is what we have been saying in talk radio for so many years. The press will always go with the most left-wing candidate. Even if you're the Clintons you were and beloved a few years ago, they will toss you out the window at 65 miles an hour if you are not the more left wing candidate, and Hillary is not" ("Fox & Friends," FNC, 6/3).
Waiting Is The Hardest Part
One of NYs last undecided Dem superdelegates, Irene Stein said 6/2 she will support Clinton even though Obama is "poised to capture the party's nomination. Ithaca told state Dem cmte members of her decision in a letter, and confirmed her choice in a phone call, saying: "I have been watching this campaign through its whole course. I've reached a point where I can unhesitatingly say that I can cast my vote for Hillary Clinton" (AP, 6/3).
From Here To Eternity
New York Daily News' Goodwin writes, Clinton has "three main options" in deciding how she ends this race. "She could say that, having come so close, she can't bring herself to quit and will fight all the way to the August convention. Or she could say that because Obama is a flawed candidate who could stumble so badly that buyer's remorse seizes the party, she is going to suspend her campaign but not yet endorse him."
"Either of those choices would likely be fatal for the party in November and also for her hopes of ever becoming the first female President. And neither would lead to her getting on the ticket as Obama's running mate. Worse, if Obama were to lose without her help, she would get the blame. Then she would find herself without a party to cry to."
That's why her "third option is the only sensible one -- surrender. Absolutely no Clinton parsing, no hedging, no veiled hints allowed. She can't leave anybody guessing about what she really meant and what she intends to do. In the plainest English possible, she must promise that she is unconditionally accepting the fact that Obama has won the nomination, fair and square. Some doubt she is capable of rising to the occasion. I don't.... A grand and noble exit is the only thing left for her to achieve" (6/3).
Washington Post's Robinson writes, since '92, the Clintons have "owned" the Dem Party. The "fact that they didn't get all they wanted from the rules committee" 5/31 "is proof that the party has changed hands. I've been critical of Hillary Clinton at times, but actually I'm confident that she will handle this new situation with equanimity and grace -- or, at least, with more of those qualities than Bill Clinton has the capacity to summon. The former president isn't dealing with any of this very well" (6/3).
New York Post's Hurt writes, if Clinton "wants to restore her tattered reputation and repair the party she has shattered, there is only one place for her to be tonight" -- St. Paul, MN. A "surprise appearance and endorsement by Clinton" would allow Dems "to mark that territory in history as the heart of a new and perfect unity for the party" (6/3).
National Journal's Cook writes in CongressDailyAM, Clinton "needs to spend the rest of the summer and fall campaigning" for Obama "and paying off her multimillion-dollar campaign debt." Thus, no one will "be able to say that" the Clintons "didn't do all they could to help Obama win the general election." So "in the long haul, if the Clintons handle this right, she can strengthen her position in the party and he can begin the rehabilitation of his own place in the party. Handled badly, neither will ever be able to fully recover" (6/3).
Time's Klein writes, if Clinton "wants to have any shot" at being VP and "heal" the party's wounds, she will have to "turn her concession speech into an Obama endorsement" tonight; have her finance team announce that they "will begin a massive, coordinated fundraising effort for Obama among her supporters"; agree to "barnstorm immediately -- like next week -- with Obama in the big states" where she did well; ask her friend Ellen Malcolm "to organize a massive 'Women for Obama' rally to be held in some major city"; and include this sentence at her speech to AIPAC on 6/4: "Israel has no greater friend than Barack Obama" ("Swampland," Time.com, 6/2).
Arkansas News Bureau's Brummett writes, Clinton "needs to accept that competition is about the score and that the score isn't always fair, but is always determinative" (6/3).
Denver Post editorializes, "as a newspaper that endorsed Clinton" before the CO caucuses, "we urge her to show as much grace in defeat as we expect Obama will show in victory." She "has run a more than respectable race, pushing forward solid plans for health care reform and the war in Iraq, and can be proud of her accomplishments. But a majority" of Dems "are looking for new leadership" (6/3).
Las Vegas Review-Journal's Neff writes, while Yves Saint Laurent, "the father of the pantsuit has in fact left us, the most famous wearer of one still clings to life support -- with advisers pushing the sad option of a convention fight that calls to mind the spectacle of the Terri Schiavo battle. It's long past time for the Clintons and their pit bulls to pull the plug" (6/3).
Lowry On The Loser
New York Post's Lowry writes, "With his media enablers gone, with his most faithful constituency (African-Americans) lured away by another, with the prospect of again attaining the commanding heights of American politics lost, with his magic touch in abeyance, Bill Clinton has been whittled down to a long, self-pitying plaint."
Clinton "has always been a man threatened to be swallowed by the yawning maw of his own ego. Even as he's tirelessly stumped the country on his wife's behalf, he's given the impression that it's all about him. His rage at the process-- his temper tantrums at reporters and twisted attempts to make himself always the victim -- speaks to an aggrieved sense of entitlement, that for all his good fortune he's owed even more" (6/3).
New York Sun editorializes, "if we were" a superdelegate, "we'd feel quite comfortable this morning throwing in our lot" with Clinton. But "if not enough make that decision to win her" the Dem nod, "she can nonetheless return to the Senate with her head held high" (6/3).
This article appears in the June 3, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.