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The delegate fight: In until the end

On Sunday, the Washington Post ran this front-page story, "In her most definitive comments to date on the subject, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sought … to put to rest any notion that she will drop out of the presidential race, pledging in an interview to not only compete in all the remaining primaries but also continue until there is a resolution of the disqualified results in Florida and Michigan… 'I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong,' Clinton said in an interview during a campaign stop here Saturday. 'I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention -- that's what credentials committees are for.'"

"'We cannot go forward until Florida and Michigan are taken care of, otherwise the eventual nominee will not have the legitimacy that I think will haunt us,' said the senator from New York. 'I can imagine the ads the Republican Party and John McCain will run if we don't figure out how we can count the votes in Michigan and Florida.''

 "As the smoke cleared from this weekend's regional Democratic conventions, Barack Obama emerged with a majority of the state's at-large presidential nominating delegates and possibly a majority of all Texas delegates," the Houston Chronicle reports. "But Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters vowed Sunday to continue the fight for Texas delegates all the way to this summer's state party convention, promising to cut his lead in delegates." More: "Clinton won the popular vote in the March 4 primaries and a majority of the primary-allotted delegates, giving her a 65-61 lead. Obama's campaign claimed he came out of this weekend's conventions with a 38-29 at-large delegate lead, giving him a five-pledged-delegate lead over Clinton... "Clinton state Chairman Garry Mauro conceded that Obama is likely to have a 37-30 advantage in the at-large delegates, which would give Obama a total lead of three pledged delegates over Clinton."

Speaking yesterday at the California Democratic Convention in San Jose, Bill Clinton argued that Democrats shouldn't worry about the nomination fight going into June -- and possibly beyond, NBC's Abby Livingston notes. "Don't you let anybody tell you that somehow we're weakening the Democratic Party by telling the people in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Indiana and Kentucky and West Virginia and Montana and South Dakota and Oregon and Puerto Rico that they count too. Chill out, we're going win this election. If we just chill out and let everybody have their say."

But on ABC yesterday, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile -- a DNC member who has remained neutral so far -- disagreed to an extent. "This notion of bringing this fight on to the convention is not a wise idea, and I think whoever is coming up with this strategy is not looking at the math," she explained, per NBC's Frank Thorp. Brazile also said she expects the remaining undecided superdelegates to choose their pick soon after the last primary ends: "sometime before July 4th, I am clear that the superdelegates will break one...way or the other." 
 
Brazile mentioned that Obama was the clear front-runner with more states won, more pledged delegates, and more of the popular vote, stopping short of saying that Senator Clinton should drop out of the race. But when confronted with one of Senator Clinton's trump cards, the seating of Michigan and Florida's delegates, Brazile quipped "clearly Florida and Michigan will be dealt with...but we should not tear the party up just to prove a point."

Sen. Jack Reed (D) also weighed in. "I think to this point the nomination process has been helpful," he said yesterday, per NBC's Sandy Luong. "It has generated an unusual amount of enthusiasm, the number of people coming out to vote and the quality of candidates I think has been very, very helpful to us. But I think we all have to recognize that it has to come to a conclusion and after the primaries I think we'll have a candidate and we'll move forward very successfully this fall."

Reed continued: "Individual candidates have to make judgments about whether they will stay in a race or leave a race and it's a very difficult decision. Because it represents years of their lives focusing every particle of their being in their campaign. They also carry the hopes and dreams of thousands of thousands and thousands of people who support them um passionately. So that's not an easy choice but a choice only a candidate can make and I would be presumptuous to suggest one way or the other what she should do."

The Democratic Party's nightmare, per the AP: "The chief worry is that Clinton may carry her recent winning streak into Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and other states, leaving her with unquestioned momentum but fewer pledged delegates than Obama. Party leaders then would face a wrenching choice: Steer the nomination to a fading Obama, even as signs suggested Clinton could be the stronger candidate in November; or go with the surging Clinton and risk infuriating Obama's supporters, especially blacks, the Democratic Party's most loyal base.
 
"Some anxious Democrats want party elders to step in now to generate more 'superdelegate' support for Obama, effectively choking off Clinton's hopes before she can bolster them further. But many say that is unlikely, and they pray the final 10 contests will make the ultimate choice fairly obvious, not excruciating."

The Los Angeles Times profiles Harold Ickes as Clinton's "not-so-secret" superdelegate weapon. Of course, has he been a weapon at all? "In a Clinton campaign that can seem machinelike, Ickes is conspicuous for his idiosyncrasies. A female aide said that when she noticed his dress shirt unbuttoned practically to the navel, it was like glimpsing an unzipped fly. 'I thought someone should have pulled him aside to tell him. I later came to realize that's how he wears his shirts.'"

"Temperament and eccentricities aside, with the importance of the superdelegates increasing Ickes now carries a burden that may be second only to the candidate's own. Clinton is ahead among superdelegates, but the margin has been slipping. In December, she led Obama by 106 superdelegates. In early February, the number was down to 87. Today it is 36, according to Associated Press surveys."