Commentary Magazine


What Does It Mean?

Barack Obama is getting clobbered in another primary, losing more than 2 to 1 in Puerto Rico. On one hand, it is easy to say “Who cares?” The nomination is within Obama’s grasp and Puerto Rico doesn’t vote in November (making this primary the perfect coda to a bizarrely-constructed primary system). Whatever popular-vote theory Hillary Clinton is constructing won’t materially change. You either buy that she won Michigan and Florida, in which case she already leads, or you think she shouldn’t get to count those delegates, in which case Puerto Rico makes no difference.

But it does contribute to the sense that Obama is sputtering. In the words of the New York Times,

In many ways, Mr. Obama is wheezing across the finish line after making a strong start: He has won only 6 of the 13 Democratic contests held since March 4, drawing 6.1 million votes, compared with 6.6 million for Mrs. Clinton.

And there is queasiness about what other shoes might be dropping from Trinity or elsewhere. (Again, from the Times: “Mr. Obama’s announcement on Saturday that he would leave his church was just another reminder of how events continue to unfold in the race.”) So perhaps all she is left with is to sit back for a couple of months, watch the polls and the YouTube clips, and see if something might send those superdelegates scurrying back to her by August. If not, the Democrats have made their choice–a man who runs like John Kerry in the swing states, who for now trails John McCain on Iraq, national security, the economy, and reducing corruption, and who has forfeited his post-racial bona fides in the pews of Trinity United.

Maybe that’s why this didn’t sound like an “I’m dropping out Tuesday” sort of speech. If, come late August, the DNC needs a Plan B–Hillary will be waiting.