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Sunday, June 01, 2008

No Road Map for Democrats as Race Ends




Adam Nagourney, Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny, NYT

The big drama now facing the Democratic Party in the presidential contest is how, when and even whether Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will depart the race.

The contest is coming to a close as Puerto Rico votes on Sunday and Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday, finishing a process that began five months ago in Iowa. Even if those results do not put Senator Barack Obama over the top, aides to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton said they expected enough superdelegates to rally behind Mr. Obama in the 48 hours after the final primaries to allow him to proclaim himself the nominee.

In many ways, Mr. Obama is wheezing across the finish line after making a strong start: He has won only 6 of the 13 Democratic contests held since March 4, drawing 6.1 million votes, compared with 6.6 million for Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton has kept her counsel about what she might do to draw her campaign to a close. But when the rules committee of the Democratic Party divided up delegates from Michigan and Florida on Saturday night, Harold Ickes, a committee member and Clinton adviser, said she was reserving the right to contest the decision into the summer.

Still, despite the fireworks, Mrs. Clinton’s associates said she seemed to have come to terms over the last week with the near certainty that she would not win the nomination, even as she continued to assert, with what one associate described as subdued resignation, that the Democrats are making a mistake in sending Mr. Obama up against Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Her associates said the most likely outcome was that she would end her bid with a speech, probably back home in New York, in which she would endorse Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton herself suggested on Friday that the contest would end sometime next week.

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