Pundits Say It's Over, but Is It?


Like a steady drumbeat, the message has resonated through the echo chamber of cable news and political blogs in recent weeks: It's all but over.

But is it?

The conventional wisdom, as expressed by dozens of talking heads and pundits, is that Hillary Clinton cannot overtake Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and that she should step down for the sake of party unity.

The theme was most strongly articulated in "The Clinton Myth," a much-discussed piece on Politico.com, which quickly became the talk of the Beltway for the boldness of its conclusion, "One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning."


And the Web site Slate.com this week launched a "Hillary Deathwatch," a daily update on her chances of winning the nomination that currently estimates her odds at 12 percent. The lead of the story sums up the media consensus: "Hillary Clinton is as good as dead."

But is that an accurate verdict on the Democratic campaign? And should the media make such predictions or does it do a disservice to the millions of voters in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and other primary states?

Gina Glantz, who was the campaign manager for Bill Bradley's presidential run in 2000, says the media's rush to anoint a winner could influence voter participation.

"The reaction could be that, 'my vote doesn't count.' Or the reaction could be that 'I want to show the pundits that this race is not over,'" Glantz said.

"The media deciding the race can have consequences."

Voters want to see both Clinton and Obama continue their campaigns, according to a recent poll. A national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports found that a solid majority of Democrats, 62 percent, don't want either candidate to leave the race. And the percent of voters who want to see Clinton drop out -- 22 percent -- is identical to the percent who want to see Obama drop out, which seems to reflect the closeness of the race.

It still is very close, by any measure. Obama leads Clinton in the number of committed delegates, but it's virtually impossible for either to win enough of the popular vote in the remaining primaries to secure the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. And many of the hotly contested superdelegates are still up for grabs.

"Whether you or I or [Politico.com reporters] Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen believe that it's going to be almost impossible for Hillary Clinton to get the nomination, it doesn't matter because the voters decide," said Armando Llorens, a political blogger who uses the name "Big Tent Democrat" and slightly favors Obama, partly because he says he's the media's favorite candidate.

"You can't declare the election over because you think she's going to lose. It's up to the voters," he said, blaming the irresponsible media coverage. "Let's not make predictions and present it as news."

Politico's Allen insists that he and Vandehei were careful not to be predictive in writing "The Clinton Myth."

"We simply used clear language to explain math that's obvious to both campaigns. The views of Senator Clinton's campaign were a big part of the story, and no one from her campaign has disagreed with any of the facts," he emailed ABCNews.com

Up and Down Primary Season

Keeping up with the bad predictions in this year's primary race has been like trying to follow a particularly intense rally at Wimbledon.

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