Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Going Out Like a Lion

By Shawn Healy
Time to place one toe back in the political arena as I've neglected it these past two tumultuous weeks. While I was sleeping Sen. Barack Obama delivered what many consider one of the greatest modern speeches on the issue of race relations to deflect criticism related to venom delivered over the years by his spiritual adviser and minster, Jeremiah Wright. In the interim, Obama was able to run out the proverbial clock on Sen. Hillary Clinton's efforts to have re-votes in Michigan and Florida. Without repeat contests in these two bellwether states, short of a complete collapse by the junior IL senator, Clinton cannot catch Obama in either the popular vote or delegate count by the end of the primary season in early June.

What, then, is the rationale for Clinton remaining in the race? As mentioned before, neither candidate will have enough elected delegates to clinch the nomination outright, meaning superdelegates will provide the decisive margin for the ultimate nominee. Of the 795 superdelegates (1 less because of Spitzer resignation), 327 remain uncommitted. Clinton leads Obama among superdelegates, 251 to 218, but trails Obama among pledged delegates, 1414 to 1248. 2,025 delgates, elected and superdelagates combined, are needed to clinch the nomination.

There has been a push in recent days, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for superdelegates to follow the will of primary voters. DNC President Howard Dean, while hesitant to make a similar suggestion, hopes to have superdelegates make their commitments in advance of the Democratic National Convention at the end of August in Denver.

Clinton contends that she is the most formidable fall opponent against Sen. John McCain, that she has won all of the largest states critical for a general election victory with the exception of Obama's home state of Illinois. She points to the original purpose of superdelegates: not to affirm the popular vote, but to provide the party establishment with a say in who they think should carry the banner come November.

For a week or so, her argument appeared to gain traction, but Obama has since recovered and taken a sizable lead in national head-to-head polls. More than anything, the venom exchanged by the two Democratic campaigns has bolstered the standing of McCain, as the AZ senator leads both in general election matchups. This means little as of now, but Obama actually fares better than Clinton, seemingly negating her arguments about electability.

I've been saying this a lot lately, but this contest will look much different come Labor Day than it does now. General election polling is meaningless at this juncture. It is surprising that McCain is polling so favorably, however, given the concerns about our economy, an unpopular war that he has unconditionally embraced, the fact that he shares a party affiliation with one of the more unpopular presidents since the dawning of public opinion polls, and the tendency for voters to punish an incumbent party that has held the White House for two straight terms.

My guess is that he faces an uphill battle against either Democratic opponent given these variables, but he is popular among idependents and even some Democrats. His current parity in the polls is partially attributable to Democratic bickering, but don't discount the data that suggests Obama and Clinton supporters will cast ballots for McCain should their choice not secure the nomination. This angst is probably overstated in the heat of the campaign, but a protracted battle has made ideological confidants polarized enemies. Crossover votes, or more probably sitting out an election in protest, will be a legitimate concern for Democrats if the contest that has dominated the 2008 calendar stretches from spring to summer.

Where does this leave the Democratic contest? Pennsylvania voters will flock to the polls in millions in three weeks, and Clinton holds a sizable lead in polls there. Obama is well positioned for a comeback in North Carolina on May 6, with a pivotal battle in Indiana scheduled for the same day. As for now, the Hoosier State looks like a toss-up, but it favors Clinton demographically and she has the establishment support of Sen. Evan Bayh. Obama, on the other hand, hails from the neighboring State of Illinois, and a good portion of the eastern half of the state shares a media market with the Land of Lincoln, meaning they have been exposed to his image through ads and press coverage over the past 4 years.

Also on the docket are Guam on May 3, West Virginia on May 13, Oregon and Kentucky on May 20, Puerto Rico on June 1, and Montana and South Dakota on June 3. I would expect Obama to claim all of these contests with the exception of West Virginia and Kentucky, adding to his popular vote and elected delegate lead, and creaming Clinton in number of state victories. The bigger question is will the next two months provide us with any more clarity than we have at this juncture. My prediction is a definitive NO with Clinton pledging to remain in the race, and committed to finding a resolution to the currently unseated delegations from Michigan and Florida.

Hang on tight. Only seven months remain until the general election.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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