Friday, March 21, 2008

Mythbusting Clinton

So Politico, and at least one Clinton staffer, is admitting what anyone not sticking their head in the sand has realized since the Potomac primaries: "Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning." It has long been improbable that Clinton could make up her deficit in the popular vote with Obama (which would have illegitimate even if she had, considering that the caucuses, mostly won by Obama, don't calculate well for an honest popular tally), but with the failure of Michigan and Florida to create a re-vote those odds go from improbable to impossible. Barring video footage of Obama cooking a baby while fellating Osama bin Laden, he's going to win the popular vote, the delegates, and maybe, with his own set of political miracles, reach the magic number of 2025 before the August convention.

The only narrative for victory left for Clinton is that she will have momentum in the last rounds of this fight, that Obama is too flawed to win November and that the people who would have supported him now have buyers' remorse. The problem with this fantasy is, firstly, that the national polls show recent decline for Obama but nothing apocalyptic; so, barring another Wright-style scandal, Obama is still in control and his momentum will continue. Secondly, and more importantly, Pennsylvannia is going to be followed directly by Indiana and North Carolina on May 6th, states that Obama is still likely to carry. And if Obama does carry those major states in the same overwhelming manner he did before the Texas and Ohio votes, Clinton will not simply be done but will be crushed in a humiliating manner. West Virginia on May 13 will probably be a repeat of Pennsylvannia, but the real contests will be in Kentucky and Oregon on the 20th, a match-up that will, at worst, be a tie between them. Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota end the primary season, and while Clinton can pick up a lot of delegates in Puerto Rico, it won't be enough to give her the lead (or probably even narrow the margins). Looking at these contests, even the most optimistic Clintonite has to admit that April and May will be, at best, see-saw battles, and certainly not the landscape by which Clinton will be able to claim signs of momentum in her favor.

All that she can hope for is that Obama will implode through some monkey business, but even there she is setting herself up for failure. The kitchen-sink attacks and negative campaigning by the Clintons, continued today by Bill's not-so-sly disparagement of Obama's patriotism, is putting HRC in the position, not of saviour of the Democratic Party, but as the lesser of two evils, unlikely to mobilize the base and quite possibly setting November as a massive failure when the African-American and youth vote simply stay home on Election Day. While I agree with Politico that Clinton has no chance to win this thing, rather than wanting to see her drop out of the race, I'd rather see her run a clean campaign that focuses on the issues, respects her Democratic opponents, and builds momentum by taking McCain, not Obama, to the woodshed. If she did that, then if the heavens part and her chances are saved by an Obamaplosion, she will be in the proper position to take advantage of it.

On a seperate matter, Richardson's endorsement of Obama has lead into some discussion on the blogosphere as to when John Edwards will finally endorse, one way or the other. Looking at the primary schedule, my gut is telling me that Edwards will endorse Obama after Pennsylvannia but before North Carolina. That's his home state, where he can have the most effect. And perhaps more importantly, I think both he and Obama realize that his endorsement is unlikely to change the outcome in Pennsylvannia, and don't want to repeat the media chattering that the Kennedy and Kerry endorsement failed because Clinton won in Massachusetts, ignoring the enormous deficit that Obama shrank, giving him significant delegates even when he didn't win - which was the real story of the Super Tuesday primaries.

No comments: