Time is running out for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Barack Obama has pulled tantalizingly close to locking up the Democratic nomination as more and more superdelegates move his way, and on Monday he was only 45 delegates short of the majority needed to win his party's nod, according to the Associated Press. His campaign claims he is even closer, saying on Monday afternoon that he needed only 42.5 delegates.
Superdelegates—elected officials and other party activists who aren't bound by primaries or caucuses—have been gravitating toward Obama in recent weeks despite Clinton's victories in several primaries, and that movement is expected to accelerate after Tuesday's final primaries in Montana and South Dakota. Obama is expected to win them both, giving him the lion's share of the 31 combined delegates at stake.
"It's more than likely that within a week or two that Senator Obama will have enough votes to claim that he's going to be the nominee," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday. Levin has not endorsed either candidate. Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director, was more definitive. He told ABC's This Week that, "Sometime this week, we'll probably have a nominee for the Democratic party."
Clinton scored a two-to-one victory in Puerto Rico Sunday, but the turnout was much less than expected,and it did little to regenerate her momentum.
It came a day after the Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws panel delivered another setback to Clinton by rejecting her demand to validate all the delegates from the disputed primaries in Florida and Michigan. Clinton won both states, but DNC officials had declared in advance that the contests would not count because they were held too early in violation of DNC rules. Not wishing to hold a convention without the participation of those two states' delegates, the rules panel approved a compromise Saturday—full seating for Florida and Michigan, but with each delegate casting only a half of a vote. This appeared to put the nomination out of reach for Clinton unless something unexpected and dramatic happens between now and the convention in Denver this August.
Under the latest formula, a candidate needs 2,118 votes for a majority. Obama has 2,073 to Clinton's 1,916.5, according to the Associated Press.
About 200 superdelegates haven't publicly revealed their preferences so far, but Democratic strategists expect most of them to move to Obama after the final primaries, in hopes of ending the nomination fight. That may be too optimistic, however, because some Clinton supporters still want to take the delegate fight—especially the dispute over Michigan—to the DNC's credentials committee and then to the full convention, arguing that Obama was awarded more delegates than he deserves. Senator Clinton says she will decide whether to pursue any challenges at a later date.