Hillary’s suspension of her campaign, and her omission of any release of her delegates, makes her a factor for Obama to consider for the next three months until the Democratic nomination is officially and finally his. Absent an actual statement to her delegates urging them to vote for Obama on the first ballot, Hillary’s candidacy cannot be said to have ended.
Rather, the former First Lady will be slowly circling overhead during June, July, and August waiting for Obama to make a mistake or stumble. Throughout the next three months, there will always be the possibility that he errs so badly that Hillary gets back into the race. Should another pastor rear his head or if one of the mythical tapes that are said to be about to emerge does, in fact, exist, Obama cannot rest secure in the nomination as long as Hillary is overhead, waiting.
Even if all of the super delegates desert Hillary, as most will now do, she still has 1,639.5 pledged or elected delegates to call her own. While these men and women can legally vote for either candidate, regardless of the slate on which they were elected, one must assume that they are true Hillary believers, who would not have been put on her slate to begin with. These pledged delegates mean that she is always just a step or two away from the nomination, should Obama commit a faux pas.
And there will be many opportunities for Obama to err over the next three months. With John McCain keeping up the pressure by suggesting ten town meetings between now and the conventions, at which the two putative candidates appear side by side, a weak debate performance or a decisive McCain win in any one of them could trigger a crisis for Obama which Hillary could move to exploit.
General election candidates usually try to move to the center after they have won their party nominations, but Obama may find his maneuvering room cut by Hillary’s hovering overhead. Any move to suggest that he might re-engage in Iraq should things fall apart or that he may not raise taxes for ambitious health care plans during a recession – any departure from Democratic Party orthodoxy – could lead to grumbling by Hillary supporters and crimp Obama’s flexibility.
Oddly, McCain finds himself in a parallel predicament. Republican leaders are worried that he is not a true Republican and concerned about his liberal positions on issues like climate change, alternative energy sources, torture of terror suspects, and corporate governance reform. His ability, too, to move to the center is handicapped while he awaits his coronation in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
But Obama’s is the deeper predicament since, unlike McCain, he does not have a rival whose vote share begins to equal his at his party convention.