The Washington Post's Paul Kane, a congressional reporter, had a revealing Q&A today that gives some brutally honest insight into the current situation of the undecided superdelegates and the candidate currently pinning her last hopes on their endorsements.
Washington: Looking at the most recent Rasmussen daily polls, I see that Hillary manages a tie today against McCain, but Barack is down by five points to McCain. What piqued my interest was that while Hillary had a "highly unfavorable" rating of 32 percent (i.e., as I see it, people who never will vote for her) Barack was at 35 percent. On Jan. 30, as we entered primary season's main show, Barack's "highly unfavorables" were 20 percent and Clinton's were 35 percent. Is this something superdelegates may be watching?
Paul Kane: I've spent the past several months talking to as many super-delegates as any reporter in America, I'd guess, since I cover on a day-to-day basis about 280 of them here on Capitol Hill.
I hate saying this, because all the Clinton people are going to flip out and say, You're biased, you're biased, you're biased. So go ahead and flip out if you want, but the simple basic truth is that the super-delegates stopped paying attention to the Clinton-Obama race about a couple days after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.
They've stopped paying attention to the primary, and instead they're focused on an Obama-McCain matchup in November. That's the basic, simple, definitive reality that has happened in this race. The "undecided" super-delegates at this moment are not going to "decide" any time soon, because to them the race is over, they're just waiting for Clinton to drop out.
Later on in the Q&A, the topic was broached again, this time from the "who's more electable in the fall" position that Clinton has been floating to the media:
Centreville, Va.: I was surprised and disappointed that The Post did not seem to address the Gallup poll yesterday which seemed to say Hillary Clinton had somewhat of an advantage over Barack Obama in the so-called swing states. The news of that poll was bandied about all day on the political blogs, and I have to say the Obama supporters seemed to be getting the worst of it. (Or is it "worse" with only two candidates in the poll?)
washingtonpost.com: Hillary Clinton's Swing-State Advantage (Gallup, May 28)
Paul Kane: Again, don't yell at me because I'm only the messenger here. But the super-delegates have moved on, they're no longer looking at how Hillary Clinton fares in battleground states against McCain. This is very hard for Clinton supporters to hear, I'm sorry, but the super-delegates are not paying attention to your candidate anymore. These head-to-head matchup polls (Clinton v. McCain, Obama v. McCain) are not having the impact on people's thinking anymore.
Mr. Kane's remarks jibe remarkably well with the general truth of the matter - that elections aren't decided by theoretical matchups 6 months down the road. Polls from that far out simply aren't reliable on any measure. And the superdelegates know that.
Note that Mr. Kane isn't responding with his own assessment of the primary race - he's simply bearing the truth about how the superdelegates see it. Considering that Clinton's arguments have been directed squarely at this group, its a telling situation that they're not making the effect Clinton was hoping for.
To ward off cries of bias, I'm going to include a Q&A about the general tone of the election and the supporters on both sides. This part is purely personal opinion on the part of Kane, so if you're upset about the above two statements, hopefully this will help put his own viewpoint in perspective:
Lashing out?: Why? I know that there are many out there who vastly prefer Sen. Clinton to Sen. Obama. I know they think that she's more qualified and better-equipped to beat John McCain in the general election. I know they think that Clinton has been unfairly treated by the media and that the primary system is all screwed up. I've heard all their arguments. And I don't doubt that they genuinely believe all of these things. My question, though, is this: What realistic outcome are they still holding out for?
Paul Kane: They want their candidate to win. I'm not sure they know how that outcome would occur, but they want Clinton to win, it's that simple. If Obama was losing this campaign by just as narrow a margin, his supporters would be just as upset. It's important for Obama supporters to realize just how narrow a victory he appears to have pulled off, rather than running around the country acting like they blew out Clinton. If she had been semi-competitive in the post-Super Tuesday states in February -- rather than losing them all 60-40 or worse -- it's highly possible she would be the nominee.