Obama camp to claim nomination Tuesday (Major update)

Following the Montana and South Dakota primaries, the Obama campaign is now planning on claiming the nomination and holding a little celebration. At this point, Obama is just 44 delegates short of the new 2,118 number which includes the Michigan and Florida compromises.

The story from MyWay:

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – Looking to bring finality to the Democratic presidential campaign, Barack Obama worked furiously Monday to win over enough superdelegates to clinch the nomination with the final primaries Tuesday.

Obama wants to formally kick off his general election campaign against Republican John McCain in a victory speech Tuesday night as the final primary campaign polls close in South Dakota and Montana.

“Senator Obama is trying to line up people that are going to come out for him tomorrow during the day so that he’ll have enough that puts him over the top that he can declare victory tomorrow,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, one of about 200 superdelegates under pressure to take a side in the contest.

“He apparently is telling people that he has the numbers, and that’s what’s going to happen, at which point it would become moot what the rest of us do,” said Altmire, who added that he will wait until after the final votes and make a decision by week’s end.

Obama needs just 44 delegates to get the 2,118 that are needed to secure the nomination. Hillary Rodham Clinton would need about 200, an unlikely feat.

On the final day before the last primaries, Obama told voters in Michigan that he and Clinton will be working together in November despite fears by some that the Democratic Party will be divided after the long and bitter primary campaign.

Claiming Clinton has run an outstanding race, the Democratic front-runner said to applause that Clinton and he will be “working together in November.” He did not elaborate.

Then you have people like Tim Russert who believe that Hillary Clinton might drop out and endorse Obama once he claims this victory:

I tend to disagree as I think she’s still planning on heading to the convention unless Obama hits the 2,118 number definitively. However, Clinton has argued whether or not the 2,118 number is legitimate since it includes only have of Michigan and Florida delegates.

In general, I don’t think anyone can definitively say what’s going to happen when Obama claims the nomination. Perhaps there has been some quiet negotiating with the Clinton campaign to pay off campaign debt and drop out on her part, who knows.

Obama, however, seems to have already claimed the nomination in his mind:

We’ll know Tuesday night when South Dakota polls close at 8pm eastern time followed by Montana at 9pm eastern.

As always, we’ll have full coverage and reporting starting around 8pm eastern on Tuesday, June 3rd.

Major Update

The rumblings this afternoon concerning whether Hillary Clinton will suspend her campaign this week are becoming deafening.

First, this from the Politico:

Members of Hillary Clinton’s advance staff received calls and emails this evening from headquarters summoning them to New York City Tuesday night, and telling them their roles on the campaign are ending, two Clinton staffers tell my colleague Amie Parnes.

The advance staffers — most of them now in Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Montana — are being given the options of going to New York for a final day Tuesday, or going home, the aides said. The move is a sign that the campaign is beginning to shed — at least — some of its staff. The advance staff is responsible for arranging the candidate’s events around the country.

With the future of her campaign in doubt, Clinton hasn’t announced her plans for the final election night of the primary cycle or beyond, but the aides said she would stage her election night event in New York City. Her entourage is currently expected to wake up Tuesday in New York and to arrive in Washington, D.C. Tuesday night.

Clinton’s senior aides didn’t respond to requests for comment on her Tuesday night plans.

UPDATE: Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee says the advance staffers haven’t been let go or told to find other jobs, just sent home. They aren’t typically paid for off days. “We just haven’t figured out our schedule past Tuesday,” he said.

They haven’t “figured out” their schedule past Tuesday, that sounds ominous.

Still more from The Atlantic:

What’s Sen. Clinton going to do this week? I subscribe to the premise that she has shared her thoughts about her future with very few of her friends and colleagues. Nonetheless, here are some clues:

(1) She’s going to speak Tuesday night from New York, not from South Dakota or Montana.

(2) The Politico reports that members of her advance staff are being recalled to New York and being given hints that their employment is over; yes, Clinton won’t have any more states to campaign in, but the Obama campaign is not shedding its advance staff after Tuesday

(3) Cheryl Mills, a very senior Clinton adviser, intends to return, full-time, to her job as senior vice president at New York University. (Note: aides say I am making way too much out of this news; Mills would surely stay on board Clinton’s campaign if Clinton continues. And truth be told, I did not contact Mills before I wrote this item, something I should have done.)

(4) Junior members of the staff are making plans for vacation, and they’re not receiving any push-back from their bosses.

More from NewsDay:

WASHINGTON – Her angry defenders were chanting “Denver!” on Saturday, but Hillary Rodham Clinton is headed to Chappaqua late tonight for a somber and potentially momentous homecoming.

Clinton will huddle with advisers and husband Bill Clinton at her mansion tomorrow, according to people familiar with her plans. She will monitor results from the final 2008 primaries in South Dakota and Montana and decide whether, how and when she will end her campaign as Barack Obama nears the nomination threshold.

“The only real counsel to Hillary is Bill; it’s not a wide circle, so we’re not sure what they’ll do,” said one of Clinton’s top supporters in New York.

The return home after 17 months of campaigning is likely to be an emotional one for Clinton. The former first lady’s spirits had been buoyed by cheering, affectionate crowds and friends said they are unsure how she will react with the primaries behind her.

“But she’ll have to make a decision either way on Tuesday,” said a senior adviser.

Finally, Bill Clinton dropping the biggest hint of all, from First Read:

MILBANK, S.D. — Bill Clinton acknowledged Monday that today may be his last campaigning for his wife.

“I want to say also, that this may be the last day I’m ever involved in a campaign of this kind,” the former president said at a town hall at the Milbank Visitor Center.

Clinton was talking about how his entire family was campaigning in South Dakota, and that he believed Hillary might surprise people in the primary Tuesday.

Acknowledging the campaign’s likely fate, he went into more detail reflecting on the experience of stumping across the country for her.

“I thought I was out of politics, ’til Hillary decided to run,” he said. “But it has been, one of the greatest honors of my life to go around and campaign for her for president. “

However, after all that, more from The Atlantic which tempers the chorus:

Senior Clinton campaign aides privy to the construction of tomorrow night’s election night celebration in New York insist that Sen. Clinton will not use the occasion to drop out of the race.

They project that Clinton will do better than expected in South Dakota, losing by a margin of less than ten points; they project a sizable loss in Montana.

Meanwhile, NBC News reports Bill Clinton, “acknowledging the campaign’s likely fate,” said in South Dakota that “this may be the last day I’m ever involved in a campaign of this kind.”

Mr. Clinton, aides said, was referring to the end of the primary season — there are no remaining places for him to campaign for his wife — and did not attempt to foreshadow her departure.

So take what you will from those stories. Either way, it’s looking more and more like the landscape of this campaign is going to change in some way by Tuesday evening perhaps.

Either Clinton is going to drop out entirely or she’s going to make her case to go to convention. We’ll have reports on her speech and of course the South Dakota and Montana primary results tomorrow along with Obama’s victory speech.

Stay tuned.. this will get a whole lot more interesting in about 24 hours.