Barack Obama’s signature campaign line — "Yes, We Can!" — was delivered with a little less gusto Tuesday night.
Hillary Clinton — basking in the glow of her popular vote wins in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island — even co-opted it for her own version: "Yes, we will!"
A few lessons from Tuesday’s results:
1. Never underestimate the Clinton War Machine.
2. In order to win, she has to club the baby seal to death. And she’s willing to do it. Now that she’s got a bit of momentum, she must bring him low. She must attack him on every front. She must go negative. Expect more "do you really trust him to answer the red phone at 3am" ads. Expect more "Obama in native dress" photos. Expect to hear more about Tony Rezko — who just went on trial this week in Chicago for corruption and fraud — and his association with Obama. Expect to hear more of the fact that he’s a Syrian immigrant, who made 26 trips between Damascus and Chicago from 2003 to 2006. Expect to hear additional Arab names associated with Rezko in this web of corruption — and perhaps in the orbit of Obama.
3. Voters don’t like to be told for whom to vote by the press. Over the past two weeks, "Saturday Night Live" has spoofed the media’s fawning coverage of Obama. Even Queen Bee picked it up during last week’s final (?) Democratic debate: "Should we get Barack another pillow?" Those "SNL" skits had an effect: the press doesn’t enjoy being made fun of, particularly with regard to how they do their jobs. The “SNL” skits pressured them to question Obama more aggressively, and they did. He did not respond well. He dodged and weaved, ducked and stumbled, then blew them off.
Expect the Clinton Ladies Intervention Team to keep the pressure on the media to ask Obama tougher questions, and to expect answers. Like Hillary until about early January, he hasn’t had to take real questions before. The rules didn’t apply to her. When she started to lose, however, she started answering them. He may now have to as well.
4. The delegate calculation may still be against her, but she’s won most of the big, industrial states, except for his home state of Illinois. Meaning: her argument going forward will be that she can win the general election popular vote once she gets out of this Democratic nightmare of Byzantine proportional allocation.
5. There will be — Lord Almighty, help us! — another Democratic debate before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.
6. She is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Here comes the patented Clintonian scorched-earth, total annihilation strategy. She will take down the Democratic Party if she has to.
7. In order to avoid that, she may try to reach back out to Obama’s core constituencies, whom she will need not ticked off at her if she’s the nominee: black voters, the young, the higher earners and more educated. You will see her court them much more aggressively: "I forgive you your flirtation with the Hope Guy, but now it’s time to stop screwing around and come back home to Mommie Dearest."
8. If you are a Democratic Superdelegate, you just hit the jackpot! Expect calls from 28 year old Chelsea Clinton and 9 year old Malia Obama (but no “pimping out”), fruit baskets, trips to the Bahamas, new cars (with taxes paid by Ron Burkle for the Clintons and Oprah for the Obamas), massages, personal chefs, Broadway tickets, shopping sprees at Saks, and lifetime supplies of paper towels.
9. There’s a new 50-50 split in America. For the last 15 years, there’s been a huge focus on the 50-50 split between red and blue, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, East and West Coasts and Middle America. Now we’re seeing an equal split within the Democratic party. Sort of takes the heat off the GOP-Dem split, doesn’t it?! The question for the Democratic nominee will be how best to heal that rift in time for the general election. Obama — because he’s such a clean slate — can do it. Hillary, who relishes her grudges and swims in vindictiveness, will be less able to do that kind of “unifying healing.” A divided Democratic base will be a Gift from the Gods for Republicans. Will the Democrats let it happen?
Can she win? The delegate numbers are against her. But the momentum no longer belongs exclusively to Obama. Her losing streak is broken. She’s calmer now. She can exhale a bit, and be more of herself. That means more self-effacing jokes on the late-night shows. But "being more of herself" also means more cannon-fire and more dirt.
Will she go nuclear on him? Yes, she will. Will he fight back? Yes, he will.
Hillary was right a few weeks ago: "Now, the fun part starts."
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