Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
I wanted you to be one of the first to know: on Saturday, I will hold an event in Washington D.C. to thank everyone who has supported my campaign. Over the course of the last 16 months, I have been privileged and touched to witness the incredible dedication and sacrifice of so many people working for our campaign. Every minute you put into helping us win, every dollar you gave to keep up the fight meant more to me than I can ever possibly tell you.
On Saturday, I will extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy. This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, but as I have always said, my differences with Senator Obama are small compared to the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans.
I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise.
When I decided to run for president, I knew exactly why I was getting into this race: to work hard every day for the millions of Americans who need a voice in the White House.
I made you -- and everyone who supported me -- a promise: to stand up for our shared values and to never back down. I'm going to keep that promise today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.
I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama. The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise.
I know as I continue my lifelong work for a stronger America and a better world, I will turn to you for the support, the strength, and the commitment that you have shown me in the past 16 months. And I will always keep faith with the issues and causes that are important to you.
In the past few days, you have shown that support once again with hundreds of thousands of messages to the campaign, and again, I am touched by your thoughtfulness and kindness.
I can never possibly express my gratitude, so let me say simply, thank you.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
The world has acknowleged the nomination of Barack Obama, but the closest Hillary Clinton came was by saying "Let me be very clear: I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel." She returns home to her DC house, to make calls, and her public schedule is empty.
Eight minutes into the speech, as a frog grips her throat, Clinton makes the first reference to the long camapaign, "as the Senator from New York -- who has talked way too much" And then she ads "Let me be very clear, I know Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel."
To sustained applause. The crowd is on its feet.
Obama has just finsished his AIPAC speech. "We had an eventful night last night," he said, "and my staffers and I are a little bleary-eyed." He once again praised Clinton. Obama had to warm up the crowd — addressing email smear campaigns against him. By the end there were lots of standing ovations, particularly when he promised to do what ever necessary "to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons," a push back against a central GOP plank against him.
Obama takes the stage, to a standing ovation. He's introduced, for the first time to a major audience as "the presumptive democratic nominee."
We got in at 3 am, staying at the Marriott Wardman Park, site of Clinton's defeat at the hands of the rules committee last Saturday. The journey here — though it involved a sprint down 24th street to catch the press bus — seemed endless. At the back of the plane, reporters gathered around Congressman Anthony Weiner of Brooklyn, complaining about "New Jersey" pizza. A scrum soon formed as the Senator, still in her electric blue suit that fairly glowed, entered the plane. We'd been told she's had a phone conversation with Obama (despite several attempts at phone tag exacerbated by the non-existent cell phone service in the underground gym where Clinton held her party last night). Obama's still waiting for his meeting, nothing substantive was discussed, an aide said. We all wanted to know what everyone wanted to know — was she going to acknowledge that Obama is the nominee, as the rest of the world has? Would she be withdrawing from the race? So we pressed in the aisle of the plane, forming a perfect semi-circle. We're calling a press conference, one reporter offered. No dice. We were shooed back, told we couldn't take off until we sat down. The prospect was chilling, and reporters returned to their beers and post-game analysis.
We woke up this morning with still nothing on the schedule after Clinton's AIPAC speech, due to start shortly. The traveling press is being told to stay here, but all we know is that she'll be making calls.
Tonight, after fifty-four hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.
Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Thousands of miles have been traveled. Millions of voices have been heard. And because of what you said — because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign — through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls. And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for President.
At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better. They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.
That is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else. Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.
We've certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning — even in the face of tough odds — is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency — an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about the party in charge of Washington, it's about the need to change Washington. There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.
All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren't the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn't do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say — let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.
In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.
Because while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.
It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush ninety-five percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college — policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.
And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians — a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.
So I'll say this — there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them.
Change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged. I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years — especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.
We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in — but start leaving we must. It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. It's time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home. It's time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda's leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century — terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That's what change is.
Change is realizing that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy — tough, direct diplomacy where the President of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world. That is the legacy of Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy. That's what the American people want. That's what change is.
Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it. It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation. It's understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was President.
John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy — cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota — he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for.
Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay the medical bills for a sister who's ill, he'd understand that she can't afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy. She needs us to pass health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it. That's the change we need.
Maybe if he went to Pennsylvania and met the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, he'd understand that we can't afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators. That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future — an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced. That's the change we need.
And maybe if he spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St. Paul or where he spoke tonight in New Orleans, he'd understand that we can't afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support; to finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American. That's the change we need in America. That's why I'm running for President.
The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate the American people deserve. But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon — that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first.
Despite what the good Senator from Arizona said tonight, I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself. I've walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white, and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools. I've sat across the table from law enforcement and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent thirteen innocent people to death row. And I've worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.
In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause.
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.
America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
Clinton says she won't state her decision tonight, though she strikes no notes of defiance, and doesn't vow to campaign on.
"You know, I understand people are asking, 'What does hillary want?' What does she want? Well, I want what I have always fought for in this whole campaign. I want to end the war in Iraq. I want to turn the economy around. I want health care for every American. I want every child to be educated and I want every one of the 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected. You see, I have an old fashioned notion that public service is about helping peopleÉ"
"I am so proud we stayed the course together. Because we stood our ground, it meant that every single U.S. citizen had a chance. A record 35 million people voted in this primary, from every state — red, blue, purple. We created enthusiasm among those we seek to serve. I am committed to unite our party, stronger than ever, to take back the White House this November."
Networks call it for Obama.
"Hillary" is a latino leader, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., tells me. "If she's the vice president, they'll vote for the ticket." 'Course the job needs to be offered first...
Obama just put out a press release. He's eight delegates away. Over at Clinton's party, none of the thousands of members of Congress, journalists or volunteers seems to think this is anything but an ending.
The hall here in Baruch college — a giant gym — is almost full. Lots of members of Congress, big funders, volunteers and what seems like a thousand reporters. Everyone says this won't be a concession speech, but not one supporter I've spoken to thinks this is anything but an ending. There's lots of VP talk. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., just told me she's urging Clinton to take the job — but that of course assumes it's offered. Meantime, Obama looks like he's about there.
You can now count the number of delegates Obama needs to win on your hands. Here's the latest, from the campaign:
Sent: Tue Jun 03 18:26:27 2008
Subject: MD Superdelegate Bel Leong-Hong Endorses Barack Obama (10 Delegatesfrom the Nomination)
Maryland Superdelegate Bel Leong-Hong Endorses Barack Obama for President
Maryland superdelegate and DNC AAPI Caucus Chair Belkis (Bel) Leong-Hong announced today that she is endorsing Barack Obama for President. [...]
The march of superdelegates to Obama has been sharp indeed today, averaging about two an hour. Florida's Bob Graham (once a potential presidential candidate himself) has just gotten on board, and former President Jimmy Carter did so a little bit ago. The Associated Press, citing unnamed private commitments, puts Obama over the 2118 now needed for the nomination, but it looks like he may have enough on the record by 10 p.m. EDT, when polls in Montana and South Dakota are closed.
Per the AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Barack Obama has effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, based on an Associated Press tally of convention delegates. [...]
The AP is reporting that Senator Clinton is "set to concede delegate race to Senator Obama." A near-immediate response from Senator Clinton's press office, however, directly contradicts this:
Statement from the Clinton Campaign:
The AP story is incorrect. Senator Clinton will not concede the nomination this evening.
We arrived in New York sometime around 3 a.m. — with Hillary Clinton and family home to rest and regroup in Chappaqua, and the rest of us bused to Manhattan. There was a party atmosphere in the press section of the plane — beer drinking, swapping campaign-trail stories, the snapping of photos. Some members of the press corps have been at this non-stop for 17 months, and no one knows what happens next.
The Clinton folks are pushing back against all the conclusions of finality, but there's nothing on the senator's schedule after tonight's election night party in Manhattan and then tomorrow morning's speech (right next to Obama's) at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington, D.C. I'm sure the phones are already burning in Chappaqua.
Things may be a bit quiet from me for a few hours. This day began, yesterday, at 4 a.m. Mountain Time and I need to get a bit of rest. More later, and certainly from the election night party, in Manhattan.
Last one. Last rally done. Hillary Clinton has just finished the last rally of the primary campaign. Every policy prescription, from curing autism to forgiving college loans, was trotted out as if Clinton couldn't uncurl her fingers from the wonkery that is the stuff of her campaigns and thousands of meetings and rallies. Despite getting the name of the mayor of Yankton, S.D., wrong and losing her voice at two venues, this does not have the feel of campaign with the wheels coming off.
But then again, no lightning struck today.
An email sent to reporters by a Clinton aide:
"Tomorrow is the last day of the primaries and the beginning of a new phase in the campaign. After South Dakota and Montana vote I will lead in the popular vote and Senator Obama will lead in the delegate count. The voters will have voted and so the decision will fall to the delegates empowered to vote at the Democratic Convention. I will be spending the coming days making my case to those delegates. Their responsibility not only to the Democratic Party but to our country is to vote for the candidate who is best able to lead us to victory in November and best prepared to lead our country into the future
We have a very strong case to make that I am the best positioned to take back the White House and put this country on the right track. That's what this is all about. After all our country has been through we cannot afford four more years of failed Republican policy.
So here's the case that I will be making over the coming days. We have won the popular vote which best represents the will of the people, more people have voted for me than any other candidate in the history of presidential primaries. We are winning the swing states and the swing voters that Democrats must win to take back the White House. And in every poll that has been done independently in the last several months I am beating John McCain in the key states. I have proven that I have what it takes to get the 270 electoral votes that is required to win back the White House.
And perhaps more importantly, I am ready on day one to serve as your president because I know the stakes are high with two wars abroad and an economic crisis here at home. We've got to have strong leadership that can go into the White House and start making the tough decisions that await our next president. So I hope all of the delegates will take the time to consider these arguments, this evidence, these facts in the coming days and then excericise their best judgment on behalf of the Democratic Party and on behalf of the United States of America."
Clinton says she'll be making her case to superdelegates over the next several days, which suggests she won't get out tomorrow, or Wednesday, even. And Thursday is the anniversary of the RFK assassination, so that would seem a poor choice, also.
Yankton, S.D. — Hillary Clinton has just lost her voice — temporarily, to be sure, but frogs took over so much that she had to turn the microphone over to daughter Chelsea to talk about health care and infrastructure. "Water," she begged, about 15 minutes into her speech. "We also need health care," she choked out, as she ordered Chelsea to come speak. "What should I speak about?" the former first daughter queried before going on to talk, in hair-splitting detail, about prescription drug policies. Hillary came back to talk about energy, but left the mic again before returning to talk about gas prices, food labelling, the farm bill and all the themes she's held since January. Except for the green grass and the shorts, this crowd could almost be Iowan. Oh yeah, they've never seen political candidates before.
On the campaign plane, Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee says "it's pretty clear she's not conceding."
We've just left Sioux Falls, where we'll be returning this evening for the last rally of the Clinton campaign — with Bill and Chelsea. At Tally's restaurant in Rapid City earlier, all the talk was of whom to vote for in November if Clinton wasn't the nominee. "I said I'll vote no matter what, but my friend is thinking about not voting," a youthful-looking great grandmother told the candidate, who showed up 45 minutes late to sign restaurant bills and pose for photos. The restaurant was mostly populated with grandma types, along with some moms and lots of kids (and a few people wearing cowboy hats and bolo ties). "We'll take one step at a time," Clinton said, saying how pleased she was — sixteen months after starting the campaign — to be bringing the race all the way to South Dakota.
Obama has all the top political support here, and he's won in states with a similar profile to South Dakota, but Clinton aides are openly talking upset. (The last time they did this was North Carolina — not a very good idea, in retrospect.) On the campaign plane, aides dismissed talk of tomorrow's party being a finale — insisting it's customary to invite big donors to such affairs (as if such an affair has ever existed before). Tomorrow looks to be a quietish day for Clinton, most of it at home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and then on to D.C. on Wednesday for the remainder of the campaign for the superdelegates.
On the way out the door in Tally's, I listened in as two women argued about the November vote. "Excuse me," I asked, "why did you say you won't vote in November?" The retort — "I don't care for either one of 'em. Isn't that enough reason?"
Here's Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee's spin on the Ben Smith item this morning. He say's it's "way overblown."
He says advance staff work per diem, and the tradition has been to send (some of them) on to the next primaries, but since there are no more primaries, the advance staff (mostly young kids) were given the option of coming to the New York City election night bash or going home. So, he says, they were told to go off duty but "keep their cell phones on."
Clinton is making her first stop this morning at the perhaps-appropriately named Tally's restaurant, known for its pancakes and buffalo sausages. Stardust Redbow showed up at seven for her counter seat. As half-eaten pancakes and empty coffee mugs litter the counter (no way the waitresses can get in to clear with two buses of traveling press here), the women repeatedly crane their necks toward the door to see if the candidate is on her way. "I'm optimistic," Stardust tells me. "I don't believe it's over. Not until all the superdelegates are counted." Which pretty much seems to be the position of the candidate and her team.
It's official: Hillary Clinton holds her election night bash as the primaries end back home in New York City. She's eschewing the usual midtown ballroom, opting instead to speak at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York, whose staff is peppered with ex-New York City officials, political scientists and policy wonks.
Clinton's campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe tells MSNBC's Morning Joe that it won't end soon...
As we landed in Rapid City last night, a group of reporters on one of the few flights to this western South Dakota city gathered at the airport, waiting for a shuttle to take us to our hotel. As we breathed in the warm ozone-tinted air, lightning lit up the sky, not the sheet lightning you see in the East but definitive streaks at the edge of a vast sky. The gathering had the feel of a reunion, with all of us comparing notes about when we'd last been on the trail. Whatever happens in the next few days, one thing is certain: The primaries are over tomorrow, exactly five months after they began and five months before the November elections. We are all here to see how it wraps up.
Here's what we know:
We have three rallies in South Dakota today. The final, a rally with Bill and Chelsea Clinton. Then we return to New York. Ben Smith is reporting that advance staff have been called back to New York and told their services are not needed after Tuesday. Beyond that, there appears to be a trip in the offing to Washington, D.C., for Wednesday — perhaps as a last pitch to the superdelegates?
More lightning is in the forecast for today.