Hillary's Long March

Hillary Clinton is on the march — literally. She is setting out for her show down with the DNC over its determination about the so-far excluded Michigan and Florida delegates. The DNC is holding a May 31 meeting to settle the matter, but Clinton is wasting no time. And she is becoming increasingly desperate in her reasons for soldiering on.

First, according to the New York Daily News, Clinton is bringing in the troops. “Busloads of Hillary Clinton supporters will swarm” the meeting, the paper reports. But Howard Dean has things handled. The report continues:

Hoping to avoid a free-for-all at the powwow, the party laid down tough ground rules on Wednesday for its May 31 meeting: "In order to maintain the decorum of the meeting, banners, posters, signs, handouts and noisemakers of any kind are strictly prohibited."

Good luck with that. Clinton’s team will make the Code Pink gals seem like prom queens. Better get some tasers and a few gallons of pepper spray.

And of course she is getting her rhetoric revved up. In Florida last week she went on a tear:

"In Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner. . .The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear: if any votes aren’t count, the will of the people isn’t realized and our democracy is diminished. . . This work to extend the franchise to all of our citizens is a core mission of the modern Democratic party. From signing the Voting Rights Act and fighting racial discrimination at the ballot box to lowering the voting age so those old enough to fight and die in war would have the right to choose their commander in chief, to fighting for multi-lingual ballots so you can make your voice heard no matter what language you speak."

She warned in speeches and interviews that if all those votes aren’t tallied the Democrats would be guilty of “changing a central governing rule of this country.” So if Barack Obama doesn’t count all the votes he’s George W. Bush or George Wallace? Those are fighting words for Democrats.

Hold on to your hats. Clinton is just getting warmed up. Her campaign operatives made clear that no compromise would be in the offing: she wants all the delegates from these states to be counted.

Clinton’s game plan here is not hard to figure out: force the DNC to give her all the delegates from the Florida and Michigan contests (even though only her name was on the ballot in Michigan). That would make up 71 delegates. The number of delegates needed to win the nomination would then increase from 2026 to 2210. That would breathe new life into her chances to make up more ground in the remaining races, particularly in Puerto Rico where 55 delegates are at stake.

If she forces the DNC to cough up all the disputed delegates she will also lay rhetorical claim to those states’ popular votes and declare that more Democratic primary voters cast their ballots for her than Obama.

Next she will turn to the superdelegates and say, “Choose me. It’s really a tie.” (Or “I really won the popular vote.”) Depending on the outcome of the remaining primary races Clinton’s delegate deficit may narrow, but she is not going to actually tie Obama in the delegate count. But no matter.

Clinton next will turn up the heat on the remaining superdelegates with an enhanced argument on electability. Her argument is two-fold.

First, the exit polls in state after state show that white voters, Catholics, Jews, frequent church goers, gun owners, seniors, moderates and conservatives, working class voters and women don’t like Obama. They don’t like him so much that even after the media declared him the winner they still voted for Clinton. Her argument is simple: these people, or enough of them to make a difference, will never vote for him. (The McCain camp should be taking notes at a furious pace.)

Second, she will argue to the superdelegates that in the key battleground states she’s much better positioned than he to beat John McCain. A new batch of polls helps make her case. According to the recent Quinnipiac polls, McCain leads Obama in both Ohio and Florida by 4, but trails Clinton by 7. In Pennsylvania, Obama leads McCain by 6 but Clinton’s lead is 13. In Missouri the averages show McCain leading Obama narrowly but trailing Clinton. In Arkansas Clinton leads by double digits while Obama trails by a similar margin.

And what if the DNC and Obama actually don’t capitulate? Well, then it is on to Denver. Floor fights, marches in the streets, wrestling matches for the microphone and utter chaos could be in store.

So what is Clinton really up to? Some wondered whether she had gone around the bend when she tossed a rhetorical grenade into the race, by reminding voters that in 1968 when Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June the race was still wide open. When that set off a firestorm of horror, she disclaimed any intent to offend. Perhaps this was a glimpse of the fantastical thinking which she has adopted to continue her pursuit of the nomination.

Some speculate that what she really wants is to force herself onto the ticket. (Perhaps ruminating about assassination is not the best strategy in that case.) Others claim she needs Obama to pay off her $20M plus campaign debt. And a few argue that she is angling for some policy fig leaf like adoption of her mandated health care plan.

But perhaps Clinton simply wants to prolong the agony, make her opponent look indecisive and weak and perpetuate the hard feelings all around. After all, isn’t that the natural result of her tactics? But that could doom Obama’s chances in November — she can’t possibly want to do that, right? Yeah, right.

Clinton’s greatest chances of making it to the White House may rest with the “I told you so” campaign of 2012. Should Obama’s efforts crash and burn in 2008, with just a little help from her, she’ll be waiting. After all, she tells us “I never give up and I never give in.” It is time the Democrats started believing her.


View All