"Clinton expected to decide future of her candidacy"
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.
Clinton is scheduled to leave New York late tomorrow or early Wednesday for Washington, where she will speak before a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.
Clinton has repeatedly said she will campaign enthusiastically for Obama if he's the nominee, but thorny issues remain, including how to deal with Clinton's $20-million-plus debt and her apparent desire to be offered the vice presidential slot.
Obama, who stands within about 50 delegates of the 2,118-delegate benchmark for the nomination after his loss in Puerto Rico, could declare victory as early as tomorrow night. To do so he will need about two dozen of the 200-odd uncommitted superdelegates to endorse him.
Despite a public display of defiance following the Democratic National Committee's controversial decision to award uncommitted delegates from Michigan to Obama, Clinton's advisers downplayed the notion that the former first lady would appeal, dragging the process out for weeks.
"I don't think we're going to fight this at the convention," Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton stalwart, told CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday. "It would be a fight that would have no purpose."
Many in the Clinton camp see her Michigan defeat as a harbinger of the end, expressing shock that longtime loyalists Don Fowler and Elaine Kamarck OKd the pro-Obama deal before a DNC committee.
"Hillary couldn't even keep the Clinton backers on the committee - so how the hell is she going to hold this thing together?" asked one of Clinton's top campaign bundlers.
Still, she hopes to convince uncommitted superdelegates her claim on the lead in popular votes makes her the most electable Democrat.
"When the voting concludes on Tuesday, more Americans will have voted for Senator Clinton than Senator Obama," said spokesman Howard Wolfson.
"The last time the Democrats didn't give the nomination to the candidate who won the most votes was in 1972," he added, in a none-too-subtle reference to the disastrous candidacy of George McGovern.
And many of her supporters are vowing to fight on despite the odds. Some have circulated a 17-page critique of the party's primary rules prepared by Clinton supporter Stephen Herbits.
It's titled: "The 2008 DNC Presidential Nomination Process: A Crisis Of Legitimacy."
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