Clinton Spurns Calls to Quit Race
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Now facing almost insurmountable odds, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) came under fresh pressure yesterday to end her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination against Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), but she vowed to remain in the race "until there is a nominee."
Clinton's narrow win in Indiana late Tuesday provided none of the boost that her campaign advisers had anticipated. Her small margin, coupled with Obama's runaway victory in the North Carolina primary, shifted the dynamics of the Democratic race dramatically and sharply against her overnight.
In a conference call with reporters, campaign officials offered as upbeat an assessment of the contest as they could muster. Asked whether Clinton had discussed dropping out, senior adviser Howard Wolfson flatly told reporters: "No."
In her conversations with advisers yesterday, they said, Clinton talked about looking ahead to the next campaign, in West Virginia, where she should hold an advantage on Tuesday.
"Her feeling is she's made a commitment to let the people in the remaining states have their chance to express their voice, and she'll move forward with that part of the campaign in a way that will both make the case for her but also be constructive for the Democratic Party," said Geoff Garin, a top strategist in the campaign.
Another Clinton adviser said that there is at best a 10 percent chance that she will end her candidacy before the last primaries, on June 3. Privately, however, several advisers acknowledged that her route to the nomination has become far more difficult as a result of Tuesday's voting. "It's narrowed," said one adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
This adviser said the fundamentals of the race had not changed as much as perceptions of Obama's prospects for winning. "It's just that the atmosphere shifted, as it shifted in her favor coming out of Ohio and again after Pennsylvania," the adviser said. "It's shifted back. Not to where it was pre-Ohio, but there's been a substantial shift back."
Garin said the real change is in the commentary about the race. "I think that there are pundits who think she should get out," he said. "She has faced those calls before and has continued onward."
Clinton advisers hope to ride out the rest of the week, knowing there will be talk about whether she will quit the race. They think that a big victory in West Virginia would give her a new platform to make a case for herself.
But Tuesday's results brought more than cable news chatter about her situation. Former senator George McGovern (S.D.), the party's 1972 nominee, announced that he was shifting his support from Clinton to Obama, and said it is time for Democrats to unite to defeat Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, in November.
"I do think the mathematics are all with Senator Obama," he said on CNN. Adding that he was not attempting to force Clinton out of the race prematurely, he expressed hope for an early decision. He added: "What we have to avoid is following a course that will deliver an election to John McCain that he otherwise couldn't get."
Obama remained in Chicago yesterday, where his advisers stressed his mathematical advantage in pledged delegates. The candidate is scheduled to return to Washington today to meet with uncommitted superdelegates and attend a high-dollar fundraiser.