February 25, 2008

March 4: Exit day one for Hillary

Even if Hillary Clinton were to win the Democratic nomination (which she won't), she wouldn't win the general election. Going into the campaign last year, she had every advantage, yet she demonstrated a lack of organizational skills and leadership abilities needed to win even half of the votes of those who held her in highest regard, Democratic voters. That being the case, she will never close the deal with independents and Republicans.

If Clinton, rather than Barack Obama, had won more votes in twice as many states, including 10-straight primaries by substantial margins, Democratic muckamucks would be calling for Obama to exit the stage. It's time for somebody to give that message to the Clintons. It's time for Hillary to begin working to unite the Democratic Party - but that's another act she seems incapable of performing. To the contrary, she gives every appearance of hanging onto false hope until the bitter end. As Bill said in South Carolina, "Run every race as if it's your last because if you don't, it could be."

The Clinton strategy through March 4 ... subject to change without notice

  • Bill set the stage for March 4 by telling audiences last week, in his best Bubba drawl, "If you help Hillary win Texas and Ohio, most likely she'll be the nominee." That was another of his fabrications to manipulate expectations. Slim wins in either or both states would not put Hillary ahead in the delegate count, and barring a "Huckabee miracle," would do little to put her in the driver's seat to Denver.

  • Hillary had trouble choosing her face for the Texas debate but, borrowing a few John Edwards lines, she donned the warm fuzzies persona long enough to make her accusations two days later seem like genuine outrage at wounds inflicted by a two-faced opponent.

  • In Ohio, Hillary hit the stage with an orchestrated attack, minus the celestial choir - "Shame on you, Barack Obama!" - then spent the weekend mocking his supporters for their failure to see Obama as a political charlatan. As she demonstrated, Rove's playbook means confusing inattentive voters by being the first to accuse your opponent of doing what you're already guilty of doing.

  • In Tuesday's Ohio debate, Hillary will skip the niceties. When the going gets tough, the tough head for the mud pit.

  • Until polls (or the actual vote on March 4) prove whether or not the Cleveland maneuver has succeeded with voters, Hillary's supporters and the chattering class will cheer her attacks, something they've been wanting all along. They will marvel at how she's finally found her voice (again, at age 60), she's finally being herself (her true self this time), she's finally found a better way to compete, so never, ever count her out.

  • If being Thatcheresque works in the slightest, i. e., the debate audience doesn't boo her off the stage, and Hillary follows up with a win or near-win in either Texas or Ohio next week, the Clinton machine will award her "the greatest comeback in the history of politics" (thank you, James Carville). That will be presented as reason enough to fight all the way to the convention floor or "till the last dog dies," whichever comes first.
Some strategy. After long months on the campaign trail, the establishment candidate is still losing ground. She has failed to grow into the national leader that party elites had expected. Contrary to her slogan, she's not ready to run a campaign on "day one," much less a government.

Hillary Clinton should do the right thing for herself, her party and the country: clean up her act this week in preparation for a graceful exit on March 4.

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