A couple days ago on NPR, Daniel Shore made the comment:
The democrats never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunityI'm starting to wonder if it is the democratic party or Hillary Clinton this best applies to.
Senator Clinton is an intelligent and capable person with an enviable lifetime of accomplishments, but what exactly is she hoping to gain by staying in the race? If we assume she is staying in the race for the best of reasons -- that she honestly believes she is the right person to lead the United States out of the quagmire President Bush has created -- it still requires her to have some hope of being elected President.
Is that at all likely at this point?
Mainstream reporting aside, Barack Obama continues to extend his delegate lead. Even in his supposedly disastrous week, he still ended up winning Texas and only lost 4 delegates, which he more than made up yesterday. While neither candidate is likely to reach the Democratic National Convention with enough delegates to secure the nomination, Obama is certain to have a lead.
So, Clinton’s only chance to be the nominee is to wage a scorched earth campaign to minimize Obama’s lead and cut enough back room deals to get the super delegates to defy the electorate and go her way. To do this she would have to use her considerable resources to convince the super delegates that Obama would lose to McCain by assaulting his experience, his leadership, and his readiness to be President.
But if this works, the results would be destroy to her chances in the general election. First, it would have alienated the broad base of Democratic support that Obama has generated. Even though he would support Clinton, is it so hard to imagine the traditionally disenfranchised, non-voting groups he mobilized returning to form and not turning out? Moreover, how many of us would choose not to support someone who spent every last penny destroying a candidate we feel is one of us?
As Bush-Gore-Nader proved in 2000, people are quite capable of cutting off their nose to spite their face.
Second, the angle Clinton has chosen to attack Obama – experience – is one where she looks pathetic compared to McCain. If Washington knowledge, foreign policy expertise, and military experience are the determining factors, McCain trounces Clinton. Her anti-Obama playbook becomes McCain’s anti-Clinton playbook.
Unfortunately, what is even more likely is that Obama will be the nominee despite everything Clinton does, but that he will face a far more difficult race against McCain because Clinton will have handed McCain attack add after attack add, Obama will have to continue to campaign against Clinton rather than McCain, voters will have been alienated by a bitter primary, and McCain will have had a long head start on the general campaign.
The tragic punch line is that if Clinton were to take the high road, to drop out on her own terms and to throw her considerable support behind Obama, she would be a hero. Moreover, she would be in the position of having nearly infinite soft power within the Democratic party and Washington. Rather than squandering the tremendous capital both she and Bill Clinton posses trying to block the future, she could be helping to drive the transition, focus on the many Congressional races the Democratic Party could win, and know that she made the right choice. The brave choice.
The heroic choice.