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Final Democratic Primaries Loom


This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, a volcano of mud on the Indonesian Island of Java.

CHADWICK: Hey, a volcano of mud. How about tomorrow's primaries in Montana and South Dakota. Democratic politics come to the end of the primary season and still no candidate. NPR's Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving is here. Ron, I said no candidate, actually too many candidates perhaps? No solution. No nominee. Hillary did better than expected in yesterday in Puerto Rico, but is reporting today that she is cutting loose some campaign staffers. What does all this mean?

RON ELVING: It means that we are at the end of the schedule, as you say, and there's really not much point in having advanced people running around the country, setting up events if all the voting is over in the states and territories and we've had something like 57 different events in states and territories. And it's really all coming down to negotiations and meetings of committees and things of that nature. And really you don't need an advanced staff for that. It's time to pull in the tentacles and decide what the Clinton campaign does next.

CHADWICK: Wouldn't you still need an advanced staff if you were thinking of running a presidential campaign?

ELVING: Possibly if you were thinking of running one in the fall, and it is not clear at this time how Hillary Clinton would claim the nomination of the Democratic Party. Her best chance to really change the dynamic went up went out the door with the Rules and Bylaws Committee on Saturday which essentially seated the delegations as we knew they had to do, but cut their votes by half. And also a portion of the delegates in a manner, in Michigan that really doesn't help Hillary Clinton at all. And what she got out of Florida was, of course, reduced by half. So, she didn't get nearly the benefit she had hoped for there and while she did do very well in Puerto Rico, even exceeding expectations, there just weren't that many delegates to be gained there. And so, at the end of the day, she still needs to turn an enormous number of superdelegates her way and it doesn't seem to be happening.

CHADWICK: Well, the superdelegates have been asked by party leaders, and there's a lot of talk that Wednesday is their day, all the voting will be done. Is there a day to come out and say, OK, this is where we are? Is that going to happen?

ELVING: Yes, I think largely it will. Bear in mind that many of these superdelegates are members of Congress, about 15 Senators, a much larger number of members of the House. And they have been telling their constituents back home, let's let everybody vote. Let's hear from the last states and territories and then we'll decide, as superdelegates, what we think we ought to do. Also there are many personal promises out there. Where the Clintons, and I say that plural, both Hillary and Bill, have implored people, please don't commit. If you can't be with us, just don't say anything until all the voting is over. Give us every opportunity to make our case. And of course, we'll also be at the end of that scheme.

CHADWICK: So, if Barack Obama gets to the new magic number, which is 2,118 now.

ELVING: That's it. I feel a tingle when you just say that number, Alex.

CHADWICK: If he gets there, is there any where that Senator Clinton can stay in this race and say, actually it's still not over yet and here's why, I could still be the nominee?

ELVING: Only this, that as Terry McCall her Campaign Chairman said yesterday, superdelegates can change their minds. So, if he has an absolute, that is to say that Barack Obama has a absolute majority among pledged delegates, which it seems he will have, and if he also has a clear majority among superdelegates, well, those are the only kinds of delegates there are. If he's got a majority in both, it's over. Unless, of course, some untoward event were to cause a substantial number of superdelegates to change their minds; to reverse course.

CHADWICK: Meanwhile, Senator Obama is going to be, tomorrow, not in Montana or South Dakota, where the voting is taking place, but in the Twin Cities, in Minnesota. Why is he there?

ELVING: Yes, he's going to be in St. Paul in the very hall where John McCain will be claiming his nomination in the first week of September. He is going to be in the room, probably very near the very spot where the Republicans are going to nominate their nominee for president. And this is their way, in a sense, issuing a challenge, of tossing down the gauntlet whatever you want to call it? And saying we are already here. We're fighting against John McCain now. We are totally focused on John McCain. Whatever else goes on within the Democratic Party is just a mopping up operation.

CHADWICK: NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Ron. Enough of the Democrats, let's talk next week about Senator McCain.

ELVING: I think we should. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.