The Final Countdown?

A lot of tea leaf reading today, but have to say, the convergence of several clues certainly seems to be pointing to a Clinton exit sooner rather than later.

First you have an astoundingly off-message Tom Vilsack:

Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor and a national co-chairman of Clinton's campaign, said Sunday: "It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee. After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."

You also have the report of the e-mail that went out to advance staff indicating the end to campaign events:

An email went out to all advance staffers of Sen. Hillary Clinton telling them there are no events on the candidate's schedule beyond Wednesday remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

The email told staffers this was not goodbye but there were no plans beyond Wednesday for now.

And Ben Smith paints a fuller picture of Hillary's event tomorrow night:

...Clinton's event in New York appears to be something a bit bigger than a minor election night in two small states she's likely to lose might suggest.

The venue she's booked, at Baruch College, is quite large.

And Clinton's finance director, Jonathan Mantz, sent an email out to top donors inviting them to the event, of which I've obtained a copy.

Add to that this report from Marc Ambinder:

Clinton Campaign staffers and former campaign staffers are being urged by the Clinton campaign's finance department to turn in their outstanding expense receipts by the end of the week. That's a sign, to them, that the campaign wants to get its affairs in order soon. If Clinton were staying in the race, there'd be no real reason to collect these receipts now; she'd still be raising and spending money from the same primary campaign account. The campaign is in arrears to the tune of about $11 million.

Although Ambinder also reports some pushback by the Clinton campaign against the speculation that she'll concede tomorrow night:

Senior Clinton campaign aides privy to the construction of tomorrow night's election night celebration in New York insist that Sen. Clinton will not use the occasion to drop out of the race.

They project that Clinton will do better than expected in South Dakota, losing by a margin of less than ten points; they project a sizable loss in Montana.

It sounds to me as though tomorrow night will be more last hurrah than concession but it's sure sounding as though we're in for a concession of some sort this week. I know it will be bittersweet for many here (in fact, more bitter than sweet) but think of what a historic moment her endorsement of Barack Obama will be, certainly a dramatic end to such a dramatic and historic campaign.

Update [2008-6-2 16:11:45 by Todd Beeton]:Suspend not concede?

Hillary Clinton has summoned top donors and backers to attend her New York speech tomorrow night in an unusual move that is being widely interpreted to mean she plans to suspend her campaign and endorse Barack Obama.

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Some Mixed Messages From Team Clinton

On Meet The Press yesterday, Barack Obama supporter and surrogate Tom Daschle said he expects Barack and Hillary to share the stage "soon," expressing absolute confidence that Hillary would endorse Barack as the winner of the nomination and that the "party would be united." When this unity gesture would happen is far from certain, however as we're getting some messages that the Clinton campaign intends to go on past Tuesday even if Barack hits the 2118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination and declares victory.

From Ben Smith:

Clinton campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe tells my colleague Ken Vogel in San Juan that Hillary Clinton  will "probably" continue a retail-level campaign operation after Tuesday's primaries regardless of what happens in them.

Team Clinton also won't necessarily consider the campaign over if rival Barack Obama soon reaches the 2,118-delegate threshold necessary to clinch the nomination.

"No, it's not it," McAuliffe responded when a reporter asked if securing 2,118 delegates would mark the end of the marathon race. "We'll see. We're going to get through Tuesday's votes. We're going to see where we are, and we're going to look at all of our options. Every option is on the table."

He also said that their primary strategy right now is to go after the uncommitted superdelegates and even some of those who've committed to Obama.

"We're calling the uncommitted ones, primarily. But we've heard things. You know, you pick up stuff. So we're following up on leads that we get," he said. "Just remember: No superdelegate is bound until they vote at the convention."

Hillary herself suggested as much to reporters on her campaign plane.

The AP's take:

The former first lady enters this week with an insurgent strategy not only to win over undecided superdelegates but to peel away Obama's support from those party leaders and elected officials who already have committed to back him for the nomination.

"One thing about superdelegates is that they can change their minds," she told reporters aboard her campaign plane Sunday night.

And in an effort to prove just that point...

Clinton invited Virgin Islands superdelegate Kevin Rodriguez, a recent convert, to travel with her to South Dakota where she planned to campaign Monday. Rodriguez had initially supported Clinton, switched to Obama, and recently returned to her camp.

But on the complete other side of the coin are some signs that would seem to point to Clinton's imminent departure from the race.

Marc Ambinder catalogs the clues:

(1) She's going to speak Tuesday night from New York, not from South Dakota or Montana.

(2) The Politico reports that members of her advance staff are being recalled to New York and being given hints that their employment is over; yes, Clinton won't have any more states to campaign in, but the Obama campaign is not shedding its advance staff after Tuesday

(3) Cheryl Mills, a very senior Clinton adviser, intends to return, full-time, to her job as senior vice president at American University.

(4) Junior members of the staff are making plans for vacation, and they're not receiving any push-back from their bosses.

What Clinton does is at least in part determined by what Obama does and when he does it, of course, but he has indicated repeatedly that the same does not go for him. In other words, Barack will declare victory when he reaches 2118 delegates regardless of whether Clinton concedes or not. I personally am hoping there is as little time as possible between his declaration of victory and her concession. The longer the gap between these two events, the more likely Clinton will be portrayed as Don Quixote chasing windmills. That would be a sad way for Senator Clinton's historic campaign to conclude.

Update [2008-6-2 11:20:29 by Todd Beeton]:Even more mixed messages, per First Read:

While there are plenty of hints today from some of her top supporters (like Ed Rendell and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) that Clinton won’t take this to the convention, it’s also clear that she and her campaign aren’t leaving without a fight. Examples: 1) Harold Ickes declaring that Clinton reserves her right to take that fight to the convention over four Michigan delegates; 2) the campaign implicitly linking Obama with George McGovern by stating that the last time the Democrats didn’t give the nomination to the candidate who won the most votes was in 1972; [...] and 4) her victory speech yesterday from Puerto Rico, in which she said in the end: “Let’s keep fighting. Let’s keep fighting. Let's keep fighting. Let's keep fighting.”

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Puerto Rico Results Thread

From CNN:

Hillary Clinton: 68 percent (257,331 votes)
Barack Obama: 32 percent (118,972 votes)

With 98% of precincts reporting a/o 7:56 PM Eastern

Update [2008-6-1 18:11:38 by Todd Beeton]:Looks like some pretty pitiful turnout here today but it does look like Hillary will net at least 100,000 votes.

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Live From Hillary Clinton Victory Speech

I'm at the Candado Plaza Hotel in San Juan where Hillary is going to speak to supporters. Waiting in line outside the press room are a lot of enthusiastic Hillary fans chanting "Hillary! Hillary!" The flyers being handed out on the street read "Celebra los Resultados con Hillary!" It was scheduled for 3:30, not sure when she's going to go on.

Update [2008-6-1 18:1:5 by Todd Beeton]:"We have won the popular vote. It is clear, I am the people's choice." That's clearly the central message the Clinton campaign wants to get out of Puerto Rico today. "I will have the popular vote. Senator Obama will have a slight lead in the pledged delegate count...Which candidate best represents the will of the people who voted in this historic election." The crowd is happy to answer: "Hillary! Hillary!"

Update [2008-6-1 17:57:52 by Todd Beeton]:Hillary Clinton is now speaking to the crowd. It is a freakin party in there. Gone are the John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen songs, instead we have Ricky Martin. People were literally dancing in the bleachers. The man who spoke ahead of Clinton made the case for Hillary as the choice of Hispanics on the mainland, the "swing voters" in the swing states. I think that's the real message Clinton is trying to communicate during the Puerto Rico campaign. It's no accident that he said the word "superdelgato" several times. He also urged them all to write letters, emails and make calls to urge the Puerto Ricans on the mainland (where there are more Puerto Ricans than there are in Puerto Rico) to vote for Hillary Clinton. There's no sense in that room that this is even close to over.

Update [2008-6-1 17:9:21 by Todd Beeton]:Still no sign of Hillary although campaign aides have put up some very large signs behind supporters now. And the folks set up in the bleachers are being led in chants such as "Senora!" on one end of the room, "Presidenta!" on the other.

Update [2008-6-1 16:29:36 by Todd Beeton]:Photos!:

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Puerto Rico Open Thread

Here's that video of Hillary's caravan last night.

Polls here close at 3pm Eastern, and I'm hopefully going to be liveblogging Clinton's victory speech. I have to run out now but use this as a prediction thread for today's results. Personally, I suspect it will be a blow out above the 13 points polling has showed her ahead by. The big questions for me: will it be as much as 20% and will turnout of 1 million or so net her another 200k votes out of today?

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