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May 12, 2008
It’s (Almost) Over, and
It’s Easy to See Why Hillary Lost
Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid is over. Everyone seems to know it
Following his huge victory in North Carolina and
much-narrower-than-expected loss in Indiana, Barack Obama now leads in
the popular vote, pledged delegates and number of states won, all of
them by likely insurmountable margins. By the weekend, Obama had also
taken the lead in superdelegates for the first time in the campaign,
when Clinton once led by over 100.
And perhaps most importantly, momentum on all of the above is
indisputably heading Obama’s way. There are a handful of remaining
primaries that Clinton could win, but those do not contain enough
delegates for her to turn things around. Because of that, Hillary is now
in the "negotiating the terms of surrender" phase of her campaign.
It’s ending not a moment too soon. Clinton ran a loathsome, divisive
campaign that may very well damage her reputation and legacy – and her
husband’s – irreparably. Whether it was the pretzel logic-like
manipulation of data, the aligning with the Richard Mellon Scaifes of
the world, the endless loop of constant, disingenuous TV appearances by
Terry McAuliffe, Lanny Davis and other such shills, or the especially
indefensible Michigan/Florida shuffle, Clinton ran a scorched-Earth
campaign seemingly showing she would do absolutely anything to be
She lost because she ran as something she's not. The pandering
gas-tax-holiday proposal the week before the primaries was a new low
point, especially when she said on This Week Sunday – when asked
how she can support something that every major economist opposes – she
doesn't need to listen to economists. A president rejecting the advice
of experts in deference to false populism? It's worked great ever since
And also, as has been pointed out by everyone from Keith Olbermann on
MSNBC to Jonathan Chait in the New Republic to Noemie Emery in
the Weekly Standard, Hillary ran an essentially Republican
campaign in a Democratic primary, one focused largely on playing to the
insecurities and fears of blue-collar white people. Then, days after the
primaries Tuesday, Clinton said out loud what Sean Hannity and Co. only
imply – that “working, hard-working Americans” and “white Americans” are
pretty much one and the same.
So, once we dispense with the twin formalities of Hillary dropping out
of the race and being officially denied the vice presidency, we move on
to the general election. And if you thought the Obama/Clinton battle was
a political junkie’s dream, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Head-to-head polls at this early stage are all but meaningless. Obama is
thought to have a disadvantage in being unable to win the sorts of
blue-collar white voters that flocked to Hillary in the primaries,
although McCain is hurt following a failed eight-year presidency by his
party, in a year when Democrats are expected to run up even larger
The biggest thing Obama has going for him is that the liberal base is
jazzed about his candidacy and will likely turn out in huge numbers – as
they did, breaking records in the primaries – whereas the activist
conservative base is as un-jazzed about John McCain as it possibly could
be. Listen to conservative talk radio, where the presumptive GOP nominee
is pilloried daily for being insufficiently supportive of torture,
insufficiently opposed to immigration and unacceptable on other such pet
issues of the base.
Contrast this with 2004, when the right was united behind Bush, while
Democrats were starting websites like Kerry Haters for Kerry and
Another Obama advantage? McCain has been off stage for the past six
months or so. Obama has gotten as much scrutiny as any candidate in
history the last few months, and once the microscope goes on McCain his
very long negatives are likely to rise.
Sure, Obama will have to contend with the Rev. Wright issue. But don’t
forget about that video of McCain and George W. Bush together on the
White House lawn. Get ready to start seeing that, all the time,
in various advertisements.
So that's really it for Hillary. In a sense, it’ll be hard to believe
she’s actually out of the race until she says so herself. But Obama will
almost certainly clinch the majority of pledged delegates a week from
Tuesday, which would be a great day for Clinton to officially drop out
and endorse him.
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