"I believe Obama probably will win [the Democratic nomination], although in politics you never ever can count anybody out," said former New York Mayor Ed Koch. "I think Hillary is doing a magnificent job and is a great candidate and if anybody can pull it out, she can. But my honest opinion is, it probably won't happen. And that he will be the candidate and that he will lose."
Koch's argument, while never voiced in public by Clinton, is thought to reflect the opinion of the senator and her key aides.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Koch warned that despite Obama's lead in every single primary election metric, the Illinois Democrat simply would not be able to best John McCain come November. As such, he urged Clinton to stay in the race even as some in the party call for her drop out now, even before Obama has officially secured the nomination.
Were the majority of states and voters who had gone to Obama - and the superdelegates who could very well affirm their decisions - making a grievous political mistake?
"Mistake is not exactly the word," replied Koch. "It is the wrong judgment. The reason that the superdelegates are there is to select that person who is most likely to prevail. And...even though he does not win on his own merits in terms of racking up sufficient delegates, in all probability the superdelegates will be afraid to exercise their own judgment. And we will simply go along with the count of the delegates that were chosen in the polls."
Koch's argued that Obama showed a complete lack of conviction and leadership in handling the controversy surrounding his former pastor. The theme is a constant feature in the former mayor's syndicated columns, several of which have directly questioned the credibility of Obama's attempts to distance himself from Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
"I am shocked, without knowing the reason that it is happening, that none of the allegations with the respect of Wright, his former pastor, have had any impact on his polling," said Koch. "I'm absolutely surprised because I think that all the things that Wright says -- and nobody believes that Obama supports those statements -- but he didn't have the courage to stand up and object for twenty years. If you are running for president, you can't be like some other poor guy in the pews who is afraid to stand up or even say something privately to the minister. You're the guy who wants to lead the country and you have to have courage to stand up and lead your own pastor. He did not exhibit that. But the fact that the Democratic constituency doesn't seem to care is a shock to me, but I'm certain that the overall constituency voting in November will care and that it will make the difference in the adverse way to his candidacy."
On Tuesday night, Obama won a decisive victory in North Carolina and closely lost his contest against Clinton in Indiana. The strong showing followed a week in which Wright not only reemerged on the political landscape but also suffocated the subsequent news coverage. Koch called Obama's ability to overcome the pastor problem and score well in the two primaries a "serious victory" but one that did not end the game.
Saying he would support Clinton and "hope she ultimately prevails," Koch wasn't worried that Democratic infighting could hurt the party's chances in the fall. It was Obama's candidacy, he repeated, that would be the death knell.
"I believe that when the voting is over that the vast majority, not all, on both sides, will vote for the [Democratic] candidate," said Koch. "But that applies only to the Democrats who have been participating. I believe that the vast majority of voters will look at all of these allegations, which nobody disputes, as related to Wright and his comments, and that they will have an enormous impact on the vote and on those Independents and others who will make a decision in the general election. I just think he is a loser because of that."