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February 25, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Desperation


Allow me to state the obvious first: Were it not for this nonsense with the superdelegates, the 2008 Democratic primary process would already be over.


Barack Obama is leading Hillary Clinton in overall votes, delegates, states won, and (most of all) momentum. Obama has won 10 states in a row, in all geographic regions of the country, and in just about every state he has erased early Clinton leads and won convincingly. In Wisconsin last week, Obama won by 13 points, equaling Clinton even among her primary demographics.


With Texas and Ohio, must-wins for Clinton, looming on March 4, the messages put out by Clinton's campaign have grown increasingly desperate-sounding, when not totally incomprehensible. Perhaps that's what Clinton gets for trusting the increasingly unhinged pollster/adviser Mark Penn, who seems dedicated in this election cycle to proving that a frontrunning Democratic campaign doesn't necessarily need Bob Schrum at the helm to screw things up completely.


It's almost as though the Clintons have devoted this campaign to proving right every Republican talking point from the '90s about how "ruthless" they are.


Among the more ridiculous ideas put out by the Clinton camp in recent weeks:


- Obama was accused of "plagiarizing" a speech from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is a friend of the candidate's, has endorsed him, approved of the rhetorical lift and perhaps most importantly shares the same speechwriter, David Axelrod. Not only was this the subject of an hour-long conference call last week, but days after it died down, Sen. Clinton felt the need to hammer the point home during Thursday's CNN debate.


- In perhaps the most egregiously wrong application of liberal identity politics in history, the Clinton campaign's Michigan chairman argued that pledged delegates from red states won by Obama are in fact "second-class delegates."


- The constant repeating of the idea that Obama is somehow a "messianic" figure, and his supporters are a "cult," just because he's clearly more popular and inspiring than the other candidate. He's just a popular politician. What's wrong with that? Besides, the GOP's continuing Reagan cult is much, much creepier.


- Then there's the Clinton camp's insane, clearly extralegal plan to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates, in defiance of the DNC, as well as an agreement reached among all the presidential campaigns. If you don't want these voters "disenfranchised," the solution is clear: Have another primary, with all the candidates on the ballot. But to seat the delegates now is beyond the pale, even by modern political standards. It's not just changing the rules in the middle of the game. It's writing new rules long after the game's been over.


- Writing on the web site of blogger/talk show host Taylor Marsh, guest blogger Paul Lukasiak attempted to argue that if you go by exit polls (not actual votes), ignore caucuses, ignore states with open primaries, include Michigan and Florida, and ignore everything since Super Tuesday, Hillary is actually ahead in support among Democrats. When Hillary supporters have to resort to such pretzel-like rationalizations to argue for good news, it's an indication that it may be time to fold up the tent.


Just about everyone in America who is any kind of political junkie has long dreamed of a brokered convention actual drama and uncertainty, instead of the stage-managed affairs we're used to seeing for the past few decades. This year, when it may actually happen, it remains a very real possibility that the superdelegate system will nominate the candidate who received less support, thus tearing the party right in two and blowing the Democrats' best election chance in years.


Sure, what the Clintons are throwing at Obama is likely a mere warm-up for what the Republicans will be hitting him with throughout the summer and fall. But things hit a new low last week on National Review's The Corner blog. On it, writer Lisa Schriffin argued that because everyone of interracial extraction who she met growing up had parents who met through Communist politics, perhaps Obama's did as well. Although Schiffrin offered no evidence of this or anything like that, she did suggest that "some investigative journalism" be done on the matter. I think if one of Stephen Colbert's staffers brought that up in a writers' meeting, he'd reject it as too over-the-top.


With the primaries continuing longer than usual and more and more states getting to vote, it would a shame if more people voting and having their votes counted than ever before found themselves overruled at the convention. But since Obama seems to erase Hillary leads in just about every state as the primary approaches, perhaps he'll sweep Ohio and Texas and put that nightmare scenario to rest.


2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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