Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This blade cuts both ways

Somebody should explain to Hillary Clinton and her senior advisors that the media narrative is starting to turn against her efforts to steal the nomination from Barack Obama. All this talk about pledged delegates abandoning one candidate in favor of the other could very well end up wounding her instead of him.

During a conference call just now with reporters, Clinton adviser Harold Ickes fell short of denying that Hillary Clinton would pursue efforts to convert pledged delegates for Barack Obama over to her side, as she said yesterday is possible under the rules.

"I think what Mrs. Clinton was trying to make clear is that no delegate is required by party rules to vote for the candidate for which they're pledged," Ickes said. "Now obviously circumstances can change, and people's minds can change about the viability of a particular candidate, and that's permitted under our rules ever since the 1980 convention."
This is a dangerous game to play, and the fact that the Clinton campaign is even advancing the argument demonstrates they are not aware of how desperate she is beginning to appear. Remember, Obama is leading in pledged delegates, in states won, and in the popular vote. Her only hope so far has been to damage him so badly in terms of electability that superdelegates would feel compelled to hand her the nomination despite the fact that he is winning. But even the contrived Rev. Wright controversy has not caused the collapse that would give Clinton her only credible shot at making that argument.

Mr. Obama’s contention that the Democratic rank-and-file has expressed its will and superdelegates shouldn’t overturn it, and Mrs. Clinton’s brief that she offers the party the best chance to defeat Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, this fall.

Mr. Obama’s side of the argument has become almost unassailable, while Mrs. Clinton’s is, at the least, open to debate. Mrs. Clinton’s best hope now is that Mr. Obama, as a candidate, suffers a political collapse akin to what has happened to the subprime mortgage market, a view shared by aides in both campaigns.
In fact, with this "pledged delegates" message, Clinton seems to be conceding the fight to lure superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters. But I can't figure out why she thinks a suggestion as unseemly as this one will be any more successful.

Frankly, just articulating such an idea could render her unworthy of the nomination in the eyes of superdelegates, and even some of her own pledged delegates. She could be seen as so toxic, so utterly self-involved, that some of them might decide she cannot be trusted with the nomination.

From the moment he announced his candidacy, Obama's message has been that it isn't about him - it's about us.

Clinton, on the other hand, seems determined to prove that it's all about her. That is not a winning argument, and I would not be surprised if voters, delegates, and superdelegates start trying to tell her that.

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