Clarification

I should maybe clarify something from my last post. It probably sounded weird when I said that Clinton “wouldn’t have had as much leverage as your average second-placer,” since she was much more successful than your average second-placer and so had a lot more delegates than candidates usually do when dropping out of the race. However, when candidates leave the race, what they trade on to get stuff out of the frontrunner is not their delegates but the unbelievable length of the primary season. “I can drop out now in exchange for a few things,” the unstated threat argument goes, “and you’ll start getting money that would have otherwise been donated to me, you won’t have to spend any money fighting me, and I’ll stop trying to undermine your candidacy, plus I’ll tell my supporters and delegates to vote for you. OR I could just keep going for weeks and weeks and weeks, draining your warchest, pointing out your weaknesses, and dividing voters.”

In Clinton’s case, obviously, that threat was gone—the primaries were already over. And sure, she could threaten to keep fighting for delegates up until the day of the convention, but most superdelegates had already declared for Obama, the pledged delegates were even more unlikely to switch sides, and Edwards had already endorsed Obama, so she couldn’t even hope to nab the third-place guy’s delegates. So, yes, she had way more delegates to her name than probably any other second-place candidate, but no matter whether she handed them over or not, Obama was going to win, and all it came down to was whether he’d win easy or win in a bitter, party-splitting battle. And despite what you may have heard about selfishness and disloyalty, Clinton is fundamentally a party animal. Once she knew for sure she no longer had a shot, she wasn’t going to stir up shit for shit’s sake. Plus, she’s still got ambitions—chief among them, as I said before, is almost certainly Senate Majority Leader—and alienating the entire party is a very bad way to get what you want.

So, counterintuitively, having more delegates (by dint of having stayed in the race longer) actually diminished her ability to influence Obama when she dropped out.

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