Historic Primary Campaign Ends With First Black Nominee
By the time Gazette readers have this issue in their hands, Barack Obama surely will have declared victory in the two final primaries of the historic 2008 Democratic presidential campaign last night, making the 46-year-old black man the first of his race to be nominated to run for president of the United States.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had hoped to become the first woman in history to become the nominee to run for president, was addressing a packed room of supporters in a Manhattan hotel, making her farewell speech of the five-month campaign, but not her ultimate concession of defeat.
However, according to her top campaign aides, the final concession could come today in Washington where the senator is scheduled to be.
Thus will end the longest and most hard fought campaign- and the most expensive- ever waged anywhere.
The most important question to be answered after that will be whether Obama will ask Clinton to be his vice presidential running mate, and will she accept.
With the Democrats left in disarray after last Saturday's Democratic National Committee meeting on the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegates at the party's August convention, and with polls showing Obama in a tight race with Senator John McCain, Clinton as the vice presidential running mate would be a sure way to unite the badly splintered Democrats.
And beyond reuniting the party, Clinton would assure that voting blocs that might be lost to McCain, such as seniors and blue collar workers, will be lured back to support Obama.
Finally, Clinton would start rebuilding her career for the future, making supporters out of Democrats who shunned her during the just-ended campaign because they didn't trust her or just plain disliked her.
Obama, virtually an unknown quantity who had barely left the freshman ranks of the U.S. Senate may well have so captured the imagination and support of Democrats from throughout the party, that Clinton had no chance to get them on her side.
This army of supporters, many, many of them as new to politics as Obama, also poured billions into his war chest, providing a vital element into what developed as a near-perfect campaign.
To prove that this army of supporters was no fluke, Obama, focusing on the "time for change" theme, bowled over Clinton and former Senator John Edwards in the first primary of the campaign in Iowa, and there was no looking back.
Clinton had her moments along the way- in New Hampshire, then New York, New Jersey and California on Super Tuesday (February 4), and later on in Texas, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
But despite these major victories, Obama was always the frontrunner once the voting began and Clinton always the pursuer- and a non-threatening pursuer, at that.
Gradually, as Obama steadily built an edge in states and delegates won, surprise endorsements that Clinton might have expected, and surprise defections of superdelegates from Clinton to the Illinois senator added to the aura of victory that surrounded the frontrunner.
While Obama's campaign became an almost perfect, smoothly efficient operation, Clinton's effort was beset by major blunders, often at the top level and unexpected gaffes from her husband, ex-president Bill, which were so totally unexpected, considering the source, that it became an embarrassment finally.
Accompanying this pattern of mishaps large and small, the campaign eventually developed serious financial problems. It was not said at the time, but lack of ready cash may have been the reason Clinton was conspicuously a non-combatant between the February 4 primaries and the re-
sumption of major state contests in Texas and Ohio almost a month later.
During this period, Obama widened his lead over Clinton by swallowing up the lion's share of delegates that were offered in several small-state primaries including some that were of the "caucus" variety that the smoothtalking Obama excelled at.
But New York's junior senator persevered throughout the ordeal, winning some major battles. Against the odds, she forced one final skirmish last Saturday to have the Florida and Michigan delegates counted, but the outcome was a preordained failure.
Clinton appeared to have a favorable edge. Although both Florida and Michigan had been barred from holding their primary elections, they ignored the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ruling and held them anyway. Clinton won both handily. The beleaguered candidate hoped for a ruling which would recognize the full delegate vote from each state, which would bring Clinton close enough to Obama in the total count to perhaps stem the tide of superdelegates swinging to the frontrunner.
But it was not to be. The DNC ruled at a very raucous meeting that all delegates from the two errant states could be seated at the Denver convention in August, but- far greater significance- it also ruled that only half of the delegates awarded to each would count toward the totals of Obama and Clinton.
Clearly, this decision favored Obama tremendously since it didn't cut into his lead in delegates and just a negligible number were up for grabs.
As for Clinton, the party's decision was the coup de grace to her hopes of salvaging a victory over Obama.
All that remains to be decided in this grueling selection process is Obama's choice of a running mate. If he doesn't opt for his erstwhile primary opponent, we would view it as a grievous error, one that would severely hurt his chances against Republican opponent John McCain. We will soon find out how this final important question will be answered.