From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The end game: With Florida and Michigan now resolved, and with the magic number now at 2,118 delegates, the focus is all about the end game -- for Clinton and Obama. Let's start first with Hillary, who still has a mathematical shot at the nomination, but it's the longest of longshots: To clinch the Democratic nomination, she needs to win about 87% of the remaining delegates. Given those odds, how does she end this thing? While there are plenty of hints today from some of her top supporters (like Ed Rendell and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) that Clinton won't take this to the convention, it's also clear that she and her campaign aren't leaving without a fight. Examples: 1) Harold Ickes declaring that Clinton reserves her right to take that fight to the convention over four Michigan delegates; 2) the campaign implicitly linking Obama with George McGovern by stating that the last time the Democrats didn't give the nomination to the candidate who won the most votes was in 1972; 3) Clinton demonstrating that superdelegates can change their mind by introducing one such super who has switched from Clinton to Obama and then back to Clinton; and 4) her victory speech yesterday from Puerto Rico, in which she said in the end: "Let's keep fighting. Let's keep fighting. Let's keep fighting. Let's keep fighting." Clinton certainly has the opportunity to make bygones be bygones -- as well as quell the resentment brewing among some of her ardent female supporters -- but when does she do this? And what does she say? For yet another hint at what Clinton's week is going to look like, Terry McAuliffe announced on Morning Joe that Clinton will be giving her Tuesday night victory speech in her elective office home state: New York.
*** Looking for that movie-ending moment: Meanwhile, as Obama looks to be a shoo-in as his party's nominee (he needs just 41.5 delegates to hit the new magic number), it's also undeniable that he's limping as he approaches the finish line. Including Clinton's 68%-32% win in Puerto Rico yesterday, the New York senator has won more than half of the contests since March, some by lopsided margins. His campaign might not admit it, but Obama needs to pick up enough superdelegates today and Tuesday (about one an hour, actually) to be able to declare victory -- or something like it -- after the South Dakota and Montana primaries tomorrow night, when he speaks from the same arena where the Republicans will hold their convention in September. Tuesday night provides him perhaps his last chance for a movie-ending moment before we head into the general election. Will he get it? The chances are better than 50-50, so claim those who know. But watch those superdelegate endorsements today and tomorrow. So far this morning, he has received two of them: DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee member Jerome Wiley Segovia (VA) and Nancy DiNardo (CT).
*** Where we stand: Obama is ahead in pledged delegates per the NBC hard count (1,729 to 1,625), Edwards' pledged delegates (16.5-0), superdelegates (331 to 293), overall delegates (2,076.5 to 1,918), the popular vote by 138,931 (17,304,352 to 17,165,421), and the total number of contests won (32 to 21). Two notes: 1) we're not including Texas in this contest count, given that Clinton won the primary but Obama won the caucus and netted the most total Texas delegates, and 2) after Saturday's DNC decision, we're now counting Florida and Michigan as wins for Clinton -- but, per guidance from the DNC, we're including Florida's popular vote but not Michigan's.
VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd gives his first read on the possibility of Obama clinching a majority of delegates within the next 48 hours and Clinton's argument that she has won the popular vote.
*** Analyzing that popular vote: Here's some more on the popular vote now that it has become the Clinton campaign's chief talking point: If you count Puerto Rico -- which won't participate in the general election -- Clinton leads by just 2,731 votes (17,428,541 vs. 17,425,810). When you add the Michigan results and don't give Obama "Uncommitted," Clinton's lead increases to 330,882 (17,756,692 vs. 17,425,810). So it's quite likely after the Montana and South Dakota results that the only metric showing her leading the popular vote is when you include Michigan. Keep in mind that if you do give Clinton the most generous count including Michigan, Obama's lead in delegates is actually bigger -- percentage wise -- than Clinton's lead in total votes.
*** I want my four delegates! After Saturday's deal on Florida and Michigan, we heard two different questions. One, why did Ickes and the Clinton campaign make such a big deal over four Michigan delegates, especially considering that Clinton trails Obama by about 160 delegates? "This motion will hijack, hijack, remove four delegates won by Hillary Clinton," Ickes said on Saturday. Two, why didn't the Obama camp just cave in and give Clinton those four delegates, but make sure it ended up with Michigan's "Uncommitted" vote? Of course, cynics might say that Team Clinton would have complained about that compromise, too…But there's an argument that both sides were being petty, and the Republicans watching the Saturday DNC meeting were smiling because it was a picture of a party that's potentially going to stay divided for some time.
*** Don't forget about Ron Paul: With all the talk that Clinton might take the fight to the Democratic convention over those four delegates, it could very well be that Ron Paul ends up creating the more contentious convention. Here's what Paul told Newsweek about his plans at the GOP convention. "We'll have a big rally there one of the days. Since they won't give us a spot, we'll make our own spot. We won't disrupt things -- that doesn't achieve anything. But we'll have a presence and present views and try to … get in on the committees to vote on platforms. That's not disruptive." The media can gravitate to sideshows at conventions when there's nothing serious to cover. The McCain folks, no doubt, are very nervous that Paul forces of elected enough McCain delegates at GOP state conventions to create floor chaos. There's nothing official these Paul folks can do, but you don't need a rule to become disruptive.
*** The play for Jewish voters: Today, McCain gives the keynote address at the AIPAC conference in DC; Obama speaks to the group on Wednesday. According to advanced excerpts of his remarks, McCain will hit Obama -- once again -- over his position of meeting unconditionally with Iran, and he will say that the better response is sanctioning the country. "Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. Essential to this strategy is the UN Security Council, which should impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework… As a further measure to contain and deter Iran, the United States should impose financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which aids in Iran's terrorism and weapons proliferation. We must apply the full force of law to prevent business dealings with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps." And: "We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a worldwide divestment campaign."
*** Heroes and Legends? Get to know these names: Justin Johnson (WI); Matt Mason (OH), Robert Bozzuto (PA), Alexis Valdez (NM), James Garcia (CO) and Jessica Patterson (NV). These are among the state directors the RNC announced today for the general-election campaign. These six folks are running among the most closely contested states McCain and Obama could be fighting over. One or more of these six could be party heroes and end up becoming legends in their own times. No offense to the other state directors the RNC launched, but these six could be in charge of campaigns that are decided by the smallest of margins.
*** On the trail: Clinton campaigns in South Dakota, where she attends rallies in Rapid City, Yankton, and Sioux Falls (at that final stop with Bill and Chelsea); McCain, after giving the keynote address at the AIPAC conference, heads to Nashville, TN to campaign and raise money there; and Obama does a town hall in Troy, MI. Also, Bill Clinton makes six campaign stops in South Dakota, the last of which is in Sioux Falls with his wife.
Countdown to Montana, South Dakota: 1 day
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 155 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 232 days
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