- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

No excuses

“With a population that is more than 91 percent white, Wisconsin isn’t African American enough for Bill Clinton to hint that it didn’t count. As one of the 20 most populous states in the union, it’s not small enough for Clinton’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, to suggest it didn’t rate. Because Wisconsin uses a primary, the Clinton campaign can’t pretend it was noncompetitive because of a mysterious allergy to caucuses,” the American Prospect’s Ezra Klein writes at www.prospect.com.

“And so Wisconsin — which gave Barack Obama a resounding, double-digit victory [Tuesday] night — counted. It was Obama’s ninth straight victory. With no excuses readily available, the Clinton campaign made none. Indeed, in the space the networks reserved for her concession speech, Clinton said nothing about Wisconsin at all, taking advantage of the media’s tradition of televising the runner-up’s congratulatory address to bait-and-switch them into covering an attack-laden ‘contrast’ speech that never once mentioned the night’s results. Noticing this, the Obama campaign pushed up their speech. The networks promptly dropped Clinton to give uninterrupted airtime to the night’s winner. It was Clinton’s second loss of the evening.”

Going negative

“A few months back, as Barack Obama’s campaign was just beginning to look like it might seriously challenge Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, a senior Obama campaign official sent a warning to his staff,” the London Times reporter Gerard Baker writes.

“It was a succinct message designed to forewarn and forearm his people against what was expected to be a ferocious onslaught from an increasingly desperate Clinton campaign.

“ ’Better get your hazmat suits on,’ the memo told them.

“If they didn’t do it then, the Obama team should now be reaching urgently for the protective outerwear, because following another night of crushing defeat for Mrs. Clinton, it seems that the Clintons have only one remaining hope if they are to wrest the Democratic nomination — a highly toxic attack on the man who is now clearly the front-runner. . . .

“Mrs. Clinton is running out of options. There’s a growing sense that she may now choose to go aggressively negative. She is under pressure from some in her campaign to step up the attacks on Mr. Obama, especially over his inexperience. …

“Until now the danger has been that negative attacks could backfire. That is a risk that will probably now have to be taken, even if it damages the Democratic Party as a whole. The Clintons have only a matter of days to save their lifelong aspirations. They will not give them up without a fight.”

Smell of a loser

“It was only a few months ago that America was laughing at Hillary Clinton’s absurd sense of inevitability,” the New Republic’s Michael Crowley writes in a blog at www.tnr.com.

“Remember the ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch in which Hillary (as played by Amy Poehler) smugly cracked that Democrats would support their nominee ‘no matter who she may be’? It’s been a few weeks since that inevitability collapsed — the South Carolina blowout was probably the tipping point. But it was only [Tuesday] night that Hillary finally acquired the odor of a loser,” Mr. Crowley said.

“Broadly speaking, Wisconsin should have been her turf. The state is an overwhelmingly white, working-class bastion. (OK, a moment’s pause for demographics: 55 percent of [Tuesday] night’s electorate had less than a college degree, while 40 percent earn less than $50,000.) These are her people. They went his way.

“Obama has now won nine contests in a row, in most every part of the country. That, despite the way the Clintons have played most every card imaginable, some more explicitly than others: inexperience, age, electability, race, drugs, Rezko, Exelon, and now plagiarism. Polling that showed a close vote among late deciders, plus a recent uptick in her national polls, suggests that final line of attack may have had an effect. But does anyone think that sort of micro-critique will give her the broad margins she needs in Ohio and Texas to close the delegate gap?

“Meanwhile, with every win, Obama makes more sense. He is no longer a leap of faith but a real winner. And what once seemed a major threat to his chances — uncertainty about the role of his race — has faded away. It was Obama’s great luck to preface the March 4 votes in Ohio and Texas by winning without enough black voters to make for a storyline about a racial divide.

“Conversely, Hillary has been completely stripped of what was once her greatest asset: inevitability.”

Super hubby

The Democratic nomination for president could come down to a vote-by-vote struggle for superdelegates, and while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost her delegate advantage over Sen. Barack Obama, she knows she can bank on one superdelegate no matter what, the Associated Press reports.

Bill Clinton is guaranteed a spot as a superdelegate: Safe to say his wife gets his vote. With the two candidates separated by 85 delegates, every vote counts.

So, is it an unfair edge to be married to a super-duper-delegate, a former two-term president, the last Democrat to hold the office and a leader who’s still wildly popular within the party?

Critics have said the unpledged superdelegate system can overturn the wishes of voters and grass-roots political movements. Those nearly 800 lawmakers, governors and party officials who wear the tag “superdelegate” could tip the nomination to one candidate even if the other gets more votes in primaries and caucuses.

Unlike pledged delegates won through a primary or a caucus, superdelegates can vote for whomever they choose, and they are not beholden to vote for the candidate they endorse.

Bill’s plea

Former President Bill Clinton said yesterday that he thinks his wife needs victories in the Texas and Ohio primaries next month to save her presidential candidacy.

“If she wins in Texas and Ohio, I think she’ll be the nominee,” Mr. Clinton told several hundred supporters during a campaign appearance for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a downtown parking lot in Beaumont, Texas. “If you don’t deliver for her, I don’t think she can be.”

It was an acknowledgment he made earlier in Galveston, when he began a daylong Texas tour trying to stop the momentum of Sen. Barack Obama, his wife’s rival for the Democratic nomination, the Associated Press reports.

Texas and Ohio hold primaries March 4.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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