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Monday, March 31, 2008

Dead Campaign Walkin'

The end has begun. Tracking the dwindling odds that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic party nominee is "HIllary Deathwatch," at Slate. In the tradition of the Gonzo-Meter, which tracked the likelihood that disgraced then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would resign, Hillary Deathwatch promises to show Clinton's slow slide into primary defeat. The first post thursday wastes no time getting to the point.

Hillary Clinton is as good as dead. This became the consensus over the past week, when the media awoke en masse to the dual reality that 1) Clinton can't close the pledged-delegate gap and 2) Obama has her beat in the popular vote. But the Clinton campaign shows no signs of slowing -- she said herself she's prepared to compete for at least three more months. So the question now is not just "How dead is she?" but "When will she realize it?"


That first post put Clinton's chances at "a generous 12 percent," noting that "a Clinton campaign official gave her one-in-10 odds." By friday, thursday had become Clinton's halcyon days. Slate now puts her chances at 10.3%. This came after a few high profile Democrats came out and called on her to quit the race. Apparently, everyone but Team Clinton sees the danger of her becoming Hillary Rodham Nader, splitting the party and throwing away its chances in '08.

Already, polls show that a significant percentage of the voters of each camp would rather vote for McCain than the opponent in their own party. There's a word for the people who are actually sincere about this -- dumbasses. McCain would stay in a Iraq for a bazillion years and appoint right wing nuts ala Alito, Thomas, and Scalia to the Supreme Court. His economic policies are almost identical to Bush's. In fact, just about all of his policies are identical to Bush's. He would be Bush's third term. Sane people should be ready to vote for a cinderblock over John McCain. Neither a Clinton backer nor a Obama backer should vote for McCain out of pique.

Of course, there's a certain amount of petulance to those who say they'd commit party treason. The claim pegs my BS meters. Sure, some of these people actually are dumbasses, but I'd bet that most of them are just electoral bullies, trying to scare other voters into supporting their candidate. For these poll respondents, the claim is blackmail and an empty threat. I doubt it'll work.

Still, there is the danger that are enough of the truly dumbass to make a difference. And, if that's true, it's a sure bet that the candidate they'll screw will be Obama. Not only is it nearly impossible for Clinton to get the nomination at this point, but it's Clinton's voters who are most likely to jump ship. Gallup tells us:

A sizable proportion of Democrats would vote for John McCain next November if he is matched against the candidate they do not support for the Democratic nomination. This is particularly true for Hillary Clinton supporters, more than a quarter of whom currently say they would vote for McCain if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.


As I said, Hillary Rodham Nader. The candidate who's supporters are most likely to throw away the next four years is the candidate most likely to lose. And that candidate is busy trying (and, thankfully, failing) to gain more supporters. This is beyond tenacity, this is brainlessness. It doesn't help things any when both Hillary and Bill actually praise McCain. Luckily, polls show this is costing her nationally.

To tell the truth, if I were Clinton's position, I'd probably still be in. Superdelegates aside, the majority of pledged delegates is 1,627. Obama has 1,415.5, Clinton has 1,253.5. If superdelegates didn't exist, there would be no definitive winner as of yet. But Clinton's in the position held by Mike Huckabee in the GOP process -- not eliminated, but with no chance of winning.

So, if I were in Clinton's position -- without a definitive loss, but not in a position to win -- I'd do something crazy like run against John Freakin' McCain. There's this place called "reality" and, no matter how much you think it sucks, you have to live there. In the twelve stages of grief, Team Clinton doesn't seem to be able to move on from denial -- although her claim that pledged delegates aren't really pledged suggests she's on the verge of the bargaining stage.

Hillary keeps saying that she's going all the way to the convention, but I have my doubts. Even candidates who have no hope from the gitgo always insist they're definitely going to win. It's just what you say. "We're going to quit soon," isn't a message anyone is going to send to their supporters. But my guess, based on nothing at all but common sense, tells me that Clinton will drop out when one of two things happen; 1) Obama hits that magic number of 1,627 pledged delegates, or 2) enough superdelegates come out for Obama to make a Clinton win impossible.

Until that happens, Clinton should lay off all this crap about how wonderful John Freakin' McCain is -- she sounds like Joe Lieberman. The winning Democratic strategy is to run against Bush. The winning message is that John McCain is George W. Bush. And Clinton's current message is extremely shortsighted -- if he's such a wonderful candidate now, how are you going to convince everyone he sucks in the 89.7% unlikely event that you wind up running against him? Clinton would be faced with a little bit of a consistency problem.

If Slate is right and Hillary's campaign is dying, she should make damned sure that the illness it's dying of isn't contagious. So far, prophylaxis doesn't seem to be a priority for her. Nor does the future of her campaign, her party, or her nation. Her dying candidacy is focused on only the moment, only on that next heartbeat. The dream is dead, but the candidacy lives on, without any future.

--Wisco

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