And tonight, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination…
And with those words, the crowd at the Des Moines rally went wild for a minute, and CNN (and presumably other networks) went with the screen label OBAMA WINS MAJORITY OF PLEDGED DELEGATES. To the casual viewer — okay, CNN at 9:30 or so on a Tuesday probably doesn’t get too many casual viewers — it looked like the nomination had been officially clinched.
I cannot help but think we are witnessing an error on the part of the Obama campaign.
Once Obama won North Carolina, his road to the nomination was just about assured. At that point, any talk of persuading Hillary to quit should have ceased. Let her have her victory lap. Obama praised her nicely in tonight’s speech, but there’s no doubt that the we-finish-our-improbable-victory-where-it-all-began vibe grated on a lot of very frustrated Hillary supporters.
Obama should have given tonight’s speech in Oregon. Even better, he could have come out and said that while he knows many came to celebrate, he felt the appropriate thing to do tonight is to talk a bit about what’s really on his mind, his friend and hero Ted Kennedy. (Obama mentioned Kennedy tonight, obviously, but this was an opportunity for outreach: Kennedy was probably one of the few figures who was a hero to both Hillary’s Democratic factions and Obama’s.)
Obama’s chances of winning the nomination are now in the high 90s. He and his campaign don’t have to keep telling us that he’s winning; nobody’s putting too much stock in Hillary’s “I’m winning if you count these states, but not these states” math. He’s got to start building bridges to Hillary’s supporters, and “sort of” declaring final victory with a few states to go is not the way to do it.