Hillary Rodham Custer?

No, Virginia, you weren’t Hillary Rodham Custer’s last stand.  But standing as Barack Obama’s sixth-in-a-row primary or caucus victory, Hillary’s loss in Virginia is a clear setback.  The later results in DC and Maryland confirmed a Chesapeake Bay trifecta for Obama that split Clinton’s most reliable voting blocks right down the middle.

Clinton isn’t done, at least yet. Her all-out campaigns in Texas and Ohio between now and their March 4 primaries will determine whether Obama can score a TKO against the Clinton machine, and the Clintons won’t go quietly. 

After yesterday’s losses Clinton’s campaign is reeling. The disorganization attendant to firing campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle after the Tsunami Tuesday and weekend losses, the Clinton campaign is less a campaign for votes than a huddled mass in a bunker.  There the old Clinton machine is re-forming for a guerilla war against Obama that may last until the August convention in Denver.

The fact that Clinton replaced Doyle with her old White House henchman Maggie Williams is one proof of the imploding Clinton organization. 

Maggie, for those who are just tuning in, was one of Hillary’s most faithful “fixers” while Bill was president.  The July 1993 suicide of White House lawyer and Hillary confidante Vince Foster was the first display of Williams’ skills. Williams — with Hillary’s other fixers, Bernie Nussbaum and Patsy Thomasson — searched Foster’s office at the time of his death.  And, as the New York Daily News reminded us a few days ago, a uniformed Secret Service officer testified under oath that he saw Williams leaving Foster’s office carrying documents at just about the time the Justice Department was about to search Foster’s papers.  The papers Williams left with were never turned over to the Justice Department. 

Williams is also famous for receiving improperly, in the White House, a $50,000 check for the Democratic National Committee from Johnny Chung. Chung later pled guilty to campaign law violations and testified to Congress that he funneled $300,000 of Communist Chinese government money to the Clinton campaign. 

The Tuesday setback for Hillary cuts much deeper than the voter turnouts or delegate counts. It is in the large 63%-36% margin in Virginia and in the split that Obama made in some of Clinton’s most faithful voting blocks. Not only did he capture a huge percentage of the Virginia black vote (probably more than 80-20) but Obama also received about 50% of the white vote and nearly the same margin of women as Clinton did.  Obama also garnered about 53% of senior citizens’ votes, and 59% of the low-income vote. There’s no good news for Clinton in any of this.

It appears that most of the voting blocks she and Bill have always been able to rely on are sundered.

The DC vote — which Obama won by an overwhelming 72%-26% — was no surprise because of Obama’s strength among black voters who predominate in DC.  But the Maryland vote — about 48%-41% for Obama – was more interesting, and all the more damaging to Clinton. 

The large margin of Obama’s victory in Virginia was equaled in Maryland and DC, and the same splits in the voting blocks were evident. 

According to Fox News, the Maryland vote was dominated by women’s turnout, more than 60% of the total.  But Maryland women went for Obama 58%-39% over Clinton.  They split the white vote (Clinton 49% and Obama 47%) but Obama also seized the senior vote 51%-44% over Clinton.  

Some of us, myself included, thought last year that Obama was in the race for the experience. Still a very young 46, Obama seemed an unlikely competitor for the Clinton machine.  But the voters had a different idea. His ability to turn voters on and get them to the polls is formidable.

One of HUMAN EVENTS’ editors voted in the city of Occoquan in the early morning hours.  He reported that the line was long, and many black voters were present. One was overheard remarking on the “new” voting machines being used.  But those same machines had been used for the past three elections. People who have not voted before, or haven’t voted in years, are turning out for Obama.

His victory speech last night showed why.  He took Martin Luther King, Jr.s’ “dream” theme and turned it into an emotional – though substance-free — appeal for a mandate from the voters.  It may be enough to sink Hillary. And John McCain.

“Change”, to the Clintons, means rounding up the usual suspects.  At least those who aren’t in jail or on the lam.  For the Old Team to overcome this long string of defeats will require a reinvention of the Clinton campaign methodology that has worked for decades and is now failing.  Obama’s sustained string of victories has Clinton badly off balance. 

Clinton campaigns also triangulate expertly, taking the steam out of the opponent’s arguments.  But plagiarizing “Change” — as Hillary did in South Carolina and Florida — didn’t work either.  Obama chants ‘change’ without ascribing meaning to it, leaving Hillary trying to triangulate a cloud.  And the last Clinton tactic — appealing to reliable voting blocks with individual pander ploys — is trumped by Obama’s personality.  People aren’t listening to the wonk when the young charismatic speaks.

The Clintons used surrogates successfully to attack, with every line of negative argument that might work, against George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.  The negatives of Obama aren’t clear, and the racially-tinged line Bill Clinton tried in South Carolina backfired. 

The Chesapeake trifecta isn’t the end of Clinton. But it may be the beginning of the end. If she can’t win in the coming Wisconsin (February 19th) and Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island primaries on March 4 she may not be able to win at all. 

Yesterday wasn’t Clinton’s last stand. That may come on March 4. Between now and then, Hillary’s team will be huddled in the bunker, mentally defeated, hostage to Obama’s smile.