In yet another stunning setback for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, former President Bill Clinton announced on Sunday that he would follow the recent defection of several superdelegates and support Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton– who is himself a superdelegate by virtue of being a former president– explained his decision to a group of reporters outside an Obama campaign rally in Ohio, where Clinton was later scheduled to speak. “My former constituents– the entire United States of America– are overwhelmingly supporting Barack Obama,” Clinton said. “And just like all the other representatives who have switched to Obama, I simply cannot and will not vote against the will of the people I served.”
The former president’s move is just the latest sign of trouble for the Clinton campaign, which in the past few weeks has spiraled into financial distress, replaced campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, lost eight contests in a row, and is now seeing a surge of superdelegate support in Barack Obama’s direction.
Senator Hillary Clinton sought to quickly turn the situation to her advantage, hoping that the controversy surrounding her husband’s move would help her solidify a rapidly dwindling lead with women voters. “You know, this is just one more example of the all-boys club of presidential politics piling on,” she told supporters at a fundraiser in Texas. “Clearly, some men just can’t handle the idea of a strong woman who they’re married to in the White House.”
The New York chapter of the National Organization for Women took Senator Clinton’s sentiments a step further. “Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal,” they said in a statement released to members. “President Clinton’s endorsement of his wife’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven President Clinton, stuck up for him, stood by him, buried their anger, hushed all that stuff in the ’90s.
“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not ‘this’ one).”
In a press conference, Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn attempted to downplay the significance of President Clinton’s decision. “It’s clear that Senator Obama is the establishment candidate in this race,” Penn said, ”and it’s not surprising that the old guard of Washington would rally around him, despite his past cocaine use. Senator Clinton, on the other hand, represents change. She wants to break with the bitter, divisive battles of the 1990s, and frankly President Clinton’s presence in this campaign undermined that message.”
Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson also characterized the move by President Clinton as expected. “If there’s one thing we know about President Clinton,” Wolfson said, “it’s that he will stop at nothing to win, even if it means switching sides to do so. But clearly he’s made a mistake, because while Senator Obama may be winning the majority of delegates and states, keep in mind that all the states he’s won either have caucuses, large African-American populations, Republican majorities, large white populations, primaries, Democratic majorities, or elected governors. Meanwhile, Senator Clinton is dominating both in states she’s lived in recently and in states that begin with the letters ‘C’ or ‘N’, except for Colorado, Connecticut, North Dakota, and Nebraska, which obviously don’t count.”
Later, inside the Obama campaign rally, Former President Clinton surprised the crowd by wasting no time going on the attack against his wife. “It is wrong that Hillary got to go through 18 debates trumpeting her superior experience and how she would be ready on Day One,” Clinton said, ”and never got asked one time, not once, ‘Well, how could you say that when your biggest executive experience involved you running America’s health care system into the ground?
“‘And your other executive experience? In 2006, you hired your buddy Patti Solis Doyle to manage your Senate reelection campaign, and she burned through $30 million and then lied to everyone about the amount of money she spent. But instead of firing her, you put her in charge of your entire presidential campaign, knowing full well she wasn’t qualified for the position, and she goes and does the exact same thing. And you end up having to loan your campaign $5 million of my money.
“‘Worse than all that,” Clinton continued, ”I handed you almost two decades of presidential connections and favors and establishment support and fundraising networks and every other political advantage known to mankind, and the best you could do is win 11 out of 33 states?’ Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”