It's All Over For Hillary

This column was written by John Nichols.
Barack Obama won.

That's the bottom line after a day of wrangling by Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws committee over whether to seat delegates selected in the disputed primaries of Michigan and Florida.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton put her name on the Michigan ballot when Illinois Senator Obama did not. And while the names of both candidates were on the Florida ballot, Clinton visited the state on the eve of the primary -- effectively breaking a pledge not to campaign -- while Obama stayed out of the Sunshine State. Clinton won both January primaries, and she was counting on big delegate hauls to renew her flagging campaign for the Democratic nomination.

She didn't get it.

The rules and bylaws committee -- on which Clinton had something of an advantage but where the desire to settle the Democratic race was stronger than personal loyalty -- decided Saturday to reinstate all of Florida and Michigan's delegates to the party convention in Denver.

Each delegate from the states will get a half-vote, as a penalty for the decisions of Michigan and Florida to move their primaries ahead of the schedule approved by the DNC.

That may sound complicated but it boils down to a few simple numbers:

If no delegates from Michigan or Florida had been seated, Obama's lead over Clinton as of Saturday would have been 202 delegates.

The decision of the committee gives Clinton 105 pledged delegates from Florida and 69 from Michigan. That boosts her total by 87 votes.

Obama gains 67 pledged delegates from Florida and 59 from Michigan, for a boost of 63 votes.

Add it all up and Obama finishes 178 delegate-vote lead over Clinton.

That's a win.

Obama remains the frontrunner -- and he is already focused on the November race. That fact was fully if somewhat painfully confirmed by the candidate's decision "with some sadness" to end his family's affiliation with Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ after struggling for months to distance himself from his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Wright's allies.

If his relationship with the socially-conscious congregation he was a member of for two decades had soured for Obama, his relations with the Democratic party establishment were on the upswing Saturday.

The determination of the rules and bylaws committee -- about as "party insider" a group as you will find -- proved to be more than satisfactory for the candidate who started this race as something of an "outsider."

"This results in Sen. Clinton obtaining a substantial number of additional pledged delegates, but I also understand that many members of the Florida and Michigan delegations feel satisfied that the decision was fair," the senator from Illinois said while campaigning in South Dakota. "Our main goal is to get this resolved so we can immediately turn the focus of the entire party on winning Florida and Michigan and delivering on the needs of the people in Florida and Michigan -- states that are enormously important, states where a lot of people are struggling."

Clinton backers are still making noises about fighting the Michigan ruling, with Clinton advisers Harold Ickes and Tina Flournoy saying, "(We) strongly object to the committee's decision to undercut its own rules in seating Michigan's delegates without reflecting the votes of the people of Michigan."

"Mrs. Clinton has asked me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee," Ickes said after the committee decision, and Clinton backers chanted "Denver! Denver! Denver!" -- signaling a desire to keep fighting.

But this is mainly for show. The Clinton campaign must appear to be soldiering on in order to remain competitive going into Sunday Puerto Rico primary and Tuesday's contests in Montana and South Dakota -- as well as any negotiations with the Obama campaign.

But the fact is that Clinton's road to the nomination -- which seemed virtually impossible before Saturday -- has essentially been closed by a friendly arm of the Democratic National Committee.
By John Nichols
Reprinted with permission from The Nation