Stu Rothenberg Gets Angry

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THE PLANK APRIL 11, 2008

Stu Rothenberg Gets Angry

I have this very strange knack for provoking fights with mild-mannered Washington institutions. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the history of the United States to get into a feud with David Broder. Today, Stu Rothernberg calls my last TRB column, arguing against Hillary Clinton's continued campaign, "ridiculous."

Well, okay, does Clinton really have a chance to win? Here's Rothernberg's case:

Certainly, many undeclared superdelegates are swayed by the argument that superdelegates cannot "overturn" the decision of primary voters and caucus goers, and that's a significant asset for Obama. But other superdelegates firmly believe that additional considerations, such as their own opinions of the candidates as potential presidents and the electability of the two Democratic hopefuls, should have an effect on their decisions.

It's true: while many -- reporting on this matter suggests a strong majority -- of the superdelegates are holding off ebcause they want to follow the results of the pledged delegates, some do believe it's their preogative to make an independent judgment on criteria like electability. And of those, some will decide Clinton is more electable. (Though Obama is running better than Clinton versus McCain, and has been for quite some time.) The problem, though, is that Clinton needs some two-thirds of the uncommitted superdelegates to break her way. Given that superdelegates have broken very strongly for Obama since February 4, that the uncommitted ones have expressed a strong preference for following the results of the pledged delegates, and that the electability data currently cuts against her rather than for her, it's all but impossible to see her winning.

Indeed, the point of my column was that those urging Clinton to stay in the race have ignored the mathematical reasons why she can't win and fallen back on gooey, rights-based rationales. In keeping with this, Rothenberg argues:

Clinton should play every card she has in her hand. She owes it to herself and, even more important, to all of her supporters.

She owes it to herself? Does she owe nothing to American liberalism or the Democratic Party? What does it even mean to continue a near-hopeless presidential campaign because you owe it to yourself?

--Jonathan Chait

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