Last night, just hours after Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton by 17 points in a Wisconsin primary that was demographically tailored to Clinton’s strengths, the AP published an article by reporter Ron Fournier titled “Race is Obama’s to lose.” But after ten straight double-digit losses in the last two weeks– including blowouts in Louisiana (21 points), Nebraska (36 points), Washinton (37 points), Maine (19 points), Maryland (23 points), Virginia (29 points), the District of Columbia (51 points), and Hawaii (52 points)– the fact is that the race is now Clinton’s to concede.
Hillary Clinton has come to a point where she knows she will not win the race for pledged delegates, and has now shifted her campaign’s focus to finding ways around this minor annoyance. If there was any doubt about this, it was erased earlier this week when a high-ranking official in the Clinton campaign revealed to Roger Simon of Politico that their new strategy is to begin targeting Obama’s pledged delegates– a move that is within the technicalities of the law, but very much akin to an intra-party coup, where the democratic will of the voters is deliberately subverted for political gain.
Last week, the Clinton campaign began referring to superdelegates as “automatic delegates” in an Orwellian move designed to shift public opinion regarding the proper role of superdelegates– namely that it would be acceptable if the superdelegates overturned the will of the pledged delegates at the Democratic National Convention. And just recently, the Clinton campaign launched DelegateHub.com, a Web site whose purpose is to convince readers of the five commandments of a stolen nomination. (The Fourth Commandment: “Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy.”)
Anyone who believes that Hillary Clinton can win the nomination in such a backhanded fashion, somehow reunite what will be a more than half-furious Democratic Party (including African-Americans, who will certainly take such developments personally), and then compete in a general election against an opponent whose strength lies in attracting Independents and right-leaning Democrats, is tragically overestimating her political abilities.
The fact is that Hillary Clinton never seriously prepared for this nomination battle to go beyond February 5th, and she’s now been caught with her pantsuit down. She knows she will not win through the will of the voters, but she also knows that she has exhausted her ammunition on Barack Obama. Her campaign has now been reduced to accusing Obama of plagiarism because he didn’t properly cite his friend Governor Deval Patrick– a friend with whom he shares a speechwriter– as the source of a small phrase within a long address, a charge that former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet called “silly.”
If there was anything more to know about Barack Obama, the Clinton campaign’s unparalleled opposition research team– which has been in the “reputation” business since the early ’90s– would have informed us before Iowa, certainly before New Hampshire, or at the absolute latest, before February 5th. At this point, it’s clear that there simply are no hidden, sinister reasons why Barack Obama should not be the Democratic nominee.
Many people are touting the notion that March 4th in Ohio and Texas is Hillary Clinton’s firewall, and thus she should continue to fight. But her real firewall was on February 5th in the 24-state national contest, and again on February 9th in Maine, and again on February 12th in Virginia, and again on February 19th in Wisconsin. And Barack Obama not only broke through those firewalls, he shattered them. If Clinton couldn’t hold a single one of those firewalls back when she had some semblance of momentum coming out of wins in the early states, it’s an illusion to think that she’ll win in Ohio or Texas two weeks from now after enduring the previous month without a win (or even a close loss). Furthermore, even if she wins one of those states, does the Democratic Party truly want a nominee in November who has shown themselves capable of getting blown out in 10 straight contests?
But beyond Hillary Clinton’s poor track record and slim chances, there is one more obvious, glaring truth. If it was Barack Obama who had lost ten straight contests by an average of 30 points, after losing both the state and delegate counts on Super Tuesday, he would be under tremendous pressure from both the Democratic Party and the media to drop out of the race.
People would say that the race was essentially over, and all he was doing at this point was forestalling the party’s ability to begin seriously raising funds and gathering resources for the general election. People would say that by staying in the race until March 4th, he’d only be spending two more weeks desperately attacking the eventual Democratic nominee– attacks which could be picked up on later by a Republican opponent in November. People would say that a further prolonged battle against an opponent who had already won 25 out of 36 contests, including the last 10 in a row, would be pointless. People would tell Barack Obama to put his personal ambitions aside and put the party above himself.
People would say all those things and more, and they would be right. It would be time for Barack Obama to step aside, just like it is now time for Hillary Clinton to step aside. Her continued presence in the race won’t quite aid a surrender to terror the way Mitt Romney’s would have done, but it could very easily damage the Democratic Party over the long run.
With the Iraq War, the flagging economy, and a distinct nationwide desire for change, the Democratic Party is in a fundamentally advantageous position for the general election. Adding to this advantage, they have found a candidate who can win in every part of the country, in every ideology and demographic, and whose message perfectly fits the moment. There is simply no reason for Democrats to continue risking the possibilty of a divided party or a President McCain for the dynastic ambitions of one family.