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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 but her.


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 president.

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 2001. 
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 congressional majorities.
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 JohnKerryisaDouchebagbutImVotingForHimAnyway.com.
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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