Clinton Aides Doubtful About Future

Sen. Barack Obama won North Carolina's presidential primary by a wide margin Tuesday, while Sen. Hillary Clinton narrowly won in Indiana.
By Perry Bacon Jr. and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS, May 6 -- After failing to win the decisive sweep in North Carolina and Indiana that could have reshaped the Democratic race, disappointed aides to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded it would be difficult for her to catch Sen. Barack Obama in either delegates or overall votes in the six remaining contests.

The outcome caused the candidate and her campaign to intensify their efforts to persuade party leaders to include the results of disqualified contests in Michigan and Florida, both of which she won. The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws committee is scheduled to meet on May 31 to consider two challenges pending on whether, and how, to seat delegates from those states.

"Absent some sort of miracle on May 31st, it's going to be tough for us," said a senior Clinton official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be frank. "We lost this thing in February. We're doing everything we can now . . . but it's just an uphill battle."

As voters went to the polls yesterday, Clinton tried to recast the terms of the race, telling reporters that the number of delegates needed to win is "2,209," rather than the 2,025 needed without Michigan and Florida.

"There are going to be the rest of these contests, which are very significant, and then in June, if we haven't done it already, we're going to have to resolve Florida and Michigan," she told reporters during a daytime event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "They were legitimate elections."

In a late-night speech here, Clinton said that "it would be a little strange to have a nominee chosen by 48 states."

Her aides also tried to stoke concerns yesterday among elected officials and party leaders, known as superdelegates, about whether Obama could win in November, with one warning of an "October surprise" that could ruin his chances.

"The superdelegates have to decide who is the best candidate to take on John McCain," campaign chairman Terence A. McAuliffe said. "Over the last week, that advantage has shifted to Senator Clinton."

Campaign officials said they would remind superdelegates that Indiana was a state that Obama aimed to win early on and at one point described as a tiebreaker in the race. They also said the results showed that Clinton continued to gain the support of the white, working-class voters they contend will be key to winning Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other swing states in November.

Still, Clinton officials were increasingly worried that superdelegates, absent some overwhelming new evidence to make the case for Clinton, would move toward Obama to put an end to a race that many are worried is harming their chances in the fall.

"I don't think tonight is a game-changer," said Steve Grossman, a Clinton fundraiser and former chair of the DNC. "I don't think the results are going to surprise many people."

A Clinton adviser said the situation was increasingly becoming one in which "she cannot be nominated and he can't get elected."

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