Sunday, March 30, 2008

Has Hillary given up?

I've been too busy to do much posting lately, so let's see if I can catch up a bit...

In one of my last posts I predicted that the March 21 Politico article about "The Clinton Myth"
would turn out to be influential and shift the mainstream media's view of Hillary's competitiveness with Obama. Sure enough, over the last week or so we've seen articles like this and every liberal's least hated conservative columnist, David Brooks, talking about Hillary's "audacity of hopelessness."

And, it only got worse from there as we learned that Clinton campaign has serious financial problems. Slate magazine launched it's Hillary Deathwatch (which I've now added to this blog). Finally, Bill Clinton had to tell Democrats at the California convention "chill."

Thanks in part to Obama very smartly telling the press that Hillary should stay in the race as long as she wants, there has been a bit of a chill, but the media's and the political culture's narrative of this race is clearly winding down. (See this, this and that. Oh, and this too.)

Hillary seems to have acknowledged it too. She has quite noticably toned down her enmity toward Obama and directed it instead toward McCain. The best of example of this is what I witnessed at my own Legislative District Caucus, yesterday, where former Democratic party chair and current Hillary campaign co-chair Terry McAuliffe spoke to the crowd of over 1000 party activists with nary a mention of Hillary. Instead, he talked about party unity after July 1, heading into the general election. (BTW, from early estimates of those LD caucus results, it appears that Obama has increased his Washington delegate lead over Hillary from the February precinct caucuses.)

While it may be that McAuliffe preferred to avoid conflict in my legislative district, which with its mix of African-Americans of all classes, hyper-educated young whites and just about every other ethnicity you can imagine is about as pro-Obama as anywhere in the country outside Hyde Park. But, with Hillary having toned it down in almost every venue, now directing her attacks toward McCain instead of Obama, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Hillary has, at some level, given up. I don't mean that she's going to withdraw from the race just yet. As at least one journalist has theorized, there may even be a tacit agreement among the two candidates, to let voters in the remaining states have their say while they run down the clock to see if any sort of external circumstances or scandal or major mistake causes the Obama campaign to self destruct.

My prediction for how this plays out? Hillary will win PA, but not by as much as in Ohio. She may even win Indiana, but probably by less than in PA; and Obama will win NC, by a lot. But, after the May 6 primaries, it's all but over. Obama will be leading by 175-180 delegates, with not many more than that remaining to be allocated after May 6. Hillary may hold on until the last primary in Puerto Rico on June 1, but for all practical purposes it will be over. The trends in the polls are bearing this out; the uncommitted superdelegates are slowly but surely moving Obama's way, while many committed Hillary delegates are hedging in anticipation of a need to switch to Obama to avoid a party implosion.

Hillary can still try to win by destroying Obama, but it probably won't work and the reason she seems to have stopped attacking him is because every time she does, she bleeds a few more uncommitted superdelegates. She's boxed in and all she can do is wind down the clock and be there in waiting if the Obama campaign somehow suffers a collapse of its own doing. If this accomplishes nothing else for Hillary, at least turning her attacks on McCain allows her to rebuild good will with party regulars and Obama supporters so that she will be in a position to build power somewhere else - perhaps as the next Senate Majority Leader.

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