As Clinton Staffers Look Ahead, Some Wonder If Campaign Is Winding Down


From CBS News' Fernando Suarez:

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO -- As the 17 month campaign winds down with just three contests left, is it possible that this may be Hillary Clinton's final week in the campaign? Could it be possible that after all this time, the once perceived inevitable Democratic nominee will be bowing out to make way for the junior senator from Illinois? The numbers are important, but visual cues may tell the real story.

As for the numbers, Clinton remains behind Obama in the race for pledged delegates. She now even trails him in superdelegates, the one category she led throughout most of the race. Obama continues to enjoy a steady stream of support from superdelegates, racking up a handful daily. Just this morning Obama picked up three superdelegates from the state of Hawaii, leaving him less than 50 delegates away from reaching the 2026 delegates needed to capture the nomination.

But the 2026 number is an issue of great debate among the Clinton campaign, who claim that that number does not include Florida and Michigan, whose delegates were stripped when the two states broke with party rules and held their primaries ahead of schedule. The Clinton campaign has argued that the correct number needed to reach the Democratic nomination is 2210, a number which would include the delegates from both Florida and Michigan. But if Obama reaches 2026, that issue may become too little, too late.

But it's not always about the numbers. During the campaign in Puerto Rico, a few interesting things have happened that seem to point to the fact that both Clinton and her staff expect the race to be over soon. For one, almost all of the campaign's press advance team is on the ground in Puerto Rico (these are the young folks who arrive days before the candidate to help coordinate the events). Some hinted that this was, perhaps, a final gift or vacation for a group of hard-working staffers.

Also, one campaign worker who was recently married, and has been with Clinton from the early snowy mornings in Iowa until now, has been looking forward to a honeymoon. The staffer was seen searching Caribbean destinations over the internet.

Last night, after a full day of campaigning in Puerto Rico, Clinton decided to take her staff to dinner at an upscale steakhouse located inside the hotel where the campaign was staying. What struck some of us in the press, who were eating at the same restaurant but not with Clinton, was that everyone, from the make-up artists to the most senior staffers, was sitting at one big table. Usually, Clinton sits with important political officials or meets with newspaper editors while her staff sits at separate tables or spends time mingling with the press. Last night, there was no contact with the media as the campaign sat as one big family gathered around for perhaps one last supper.

Despite a realization that the campaign is headed to a potential end, Clinton's campaign schedule remains vigorous. Today, she has four scheduled events across Puerto Rico before heading to Washington later tonight. But there will be no rest for the weary as Clinton heads to Montana on Tuesday, with stops in South Dakota on Wednesday and Thursday. Clinton wraps up the week with a trip back to Puerto Rico over the weekend. One thing is certain, whether or not Clinton becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, she is going down swinging.