This one's for my fellow Obama supporters. Those readers who prefer Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or V.I. Lenin (you know who you are) should feel free pass it over and devote your energies to making comments on Chapter 2 of Million Dollar Ideas.
The message: We have to keep campaigning. This race isn't over yet. We desperately want it to be, but it's not. Although it's obviously become virtually impossible for Senator Clinton to win the nomination, it's entirely possible for her to keep fighting all the way through June and even all the way to the convention, stalling all efforts to unite the party and enabling John McCain to keep building support with no unified opposition. Although there have been signs in the last couple of days that Clinton will be shifting her message toward party unity and away from attacking Obama's electability, the jury is still very much out; this wouldn't be the first time she's played the "unifier" for a day or two and then launched a new attack. Until Clinton herself has been forced to concede that she has no chance, the Democratic Party will not be able to turn its full energies to saving us from four more years of Bush policies.
The way the race plays out is now ultimately up to the superdelegates, who are clearly shifting toward Obama but not quickly enough to end the process any time soon, and the members of the party Rules Committee, who may or may not make a decision on Florida and Michigan's delegates on May 31. But those politicians are still watching the remaining primaries, which is why voters in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon still have quite a bit of power, and why our phone calls and contributions will still make a difference.
If Obama can pick up a fair number of delegates in Oregon and limit Clinton's gains in West Virginia and Kentucky, the Florida-Michigan decision can be rendered essentially irrelevant. He has a shot at winning a firm majority of all pledged delegates (not including those "banished" states) with Kentucky and Oregon on May 20, which should bring around those dozens of superdelegates who have committed to supporting the pledged-delegate winner. That should give Obama a large enough numerical majority that even seating the Michigan and Florida delegations by a formula that favors Clinton can't change the final result. That will be a huge step toward bringing the party together, it will finally silence the Clinton camp's argument that Obama's only leading because the voters of Florida and Michigan have been "disenfranchised," and it should help the people of those states to feel much better about the party.
And if the popular vote totals in Oregon, West Virginia, or Kentucky break better for Obama than the polls project, he will be able to silence the argument that he's losing ground among "hard-working white people" as Clinton claims and assert that he still has the momentum that shifted toward him in the last days before Indiana and North Carolina. This will quiet a lot of anxieties about his electability and bring more superdelegates to his side. It will also close the door on the final argument that Senator Clinton hopes to be able to make: that although Obama won more delegates, she won the popular vote. Obama's ahead by a little over 400,000 votes, if you count Florida. Clinton will only be able to overtake him with some truly staggering wins in the states that favor her and surprisingly close losses in those that don't. (The Clinton camp keeps wanting to count Michigan too, where she got over 300,000 votes and he got zero, because he played by the rules and took his name off the ballot. But that argument is so stupid that it only hurts them with party leaders.)
So as badly as we all want to call this battle won, we can't do it yet. We have to be as indefatigable as...well...as Hillary. Yes, let Hillary be our role model. As tired as we are, as hoarse as our voices get, will still have to knock on those doors, ask for that money, make those phone calls. Soon we'll be able to stop. And rest up for the real election.