By Peter Baker and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 5, 2008; A01
As Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton raced from border towns on the Rio Grande to farm communities in the Midwest trying to salvage her troubled presidential campaign in recent days, advisers at her Arlington headquarters were awash in mixed feelings about whether she should go on.
There was never any doubt in my mind that she would go on.
Decisive victories in both Ohio and Texas, they agreed, would justify staying in the race until the next big primary in Pennsylvania in seven weeks. Defeats in both of the big states would spell the end. But the prospect of a split decision or close results generated sharply different judgments from her strategists about her future.
Clinton wiped away the debate last night with a robust victory in Ohio and a narrow win in Texas. But as she vowed to keep campaigning, the tight vote in Texas signaled she may yet face a tough decision in coming weeks. The slim margin in the Texas popular vote and an additional caucus process in which she trailed made clear that she would not win enough delegates to put a major dent in Sen. Barack Obama's lead. And regardless of the results, she emerged from the crucible of Ohio and Texas with a campaign mired in debt and riven by dissension
Clinton plans to use her triumphs in Ohio and Texas, as well as in Rhode Island, to argue that she still has a credible claim to the Democratic nomination, despite the delegate math. Many in her circle believe she finally recaptured momentum on the campaign trail in recent days and managed to put Obama on the defensive by questioning his readiness to serve as commander in chief. If nothing else, they hope she has earned a new lease to make her case to the nation.
Appearing before jubilant supporters in Columbus last night, an energized Clinton seized on the Ohio victory and declared that she will go "all the way" to the White House. "Keep on watching," she said. "Together, we're going to make history."
As the results came in, aides reported that the dark mood that has clouded her campaign headquarters for weeks had finally lifted, and talk of dropping out was fading. "It means she goes on," a senior campaign strategist said on the condition of anonymity. "All the late-breaking voters went with her, and the next batch of states favor her. He is starting to get scrutiny like he has never seen before, and he is out of material to talk about on the trail."
Another Democrat who has advised her noted that Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have made a career of refusing to give in when the establishment has counted them out. "She doesn't give up," the Democrat said. "He doesn't give up."
Critical to Clinton's prospect of victory are the superdelegates, the nearly 800 elected officials and party leaders who can vote any way they choose. Her campaign envisions what aides call a "buyer's remorse" strategy of raising enough doubts about the first-term senator from Illinois through increasingly vigorous attacks and tougher media scrutiny to convince the superdelegates that it would be too risky to nominate him.
That reflects the recognition that it would be enormously difficult for Clinton to overtake Obama in the pledged delegates chosen by voters in primaries and caucuses. By some calculations, Clinton would need to win more than 60 percent of the vote in the dozen contests remaining between now and June 7 to catch Obama in pledged delegates -- a steep challenge given that, so far, she has won that much in only one state, her onetime adopted home of Arkansas. Even in New York, where she is a sitting senator, she won 57 percent of the vote. She won 55 percent in Michigan, where Obama was not even on the ballot.
"Her durability is impressive if not astonishing, but she is still looking at some pretty cold, hard numbers in the race," said Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist who initially ran the 2004 primary campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). "She's running out of time, she's running out of space." He described a Clinton nomination even with wins in Texas and Ohio as "impossible, really."
This guy apparently doesn't know the Clintons very well.
Steve McMahon, another Democratic strategist who is not working for either candidate, said the odds are long. "It's difficult to see how the math works for Senator Clinton," he said. "If you look at most models out there circulating, the one thing that's consistent is that she has to perform pretty strongly in order to have any hope of making up the deficit among elected delegates."
Still, Clinton supporters said yesterday's results suggested that Obama has not been able to close the deal, leaving her an opening. "She has lost 11 states in a row -- and the closest was Wisconsin, which she lost by 17" percentage points, said Paul Begala, who was a White House aide to her husband. "The theory of momentum suggested Obama should roll up equally large margins today, but voters seem to want to keep this race going. I suspect Senator Clinton agrees with them."
Indeed, Clinton had hinted Monday that she was ready to keep the race going. "I'm just getting warmed up," she said. She seemed to surge on the strength of attacks on Obama's leadership preparation, conflicting statements about the North American Free Trade Agreement and connections to fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, whose trial on unrelated extortion and money laundering charges opened Monday.
OK, what about the leadership thing?
Take a look at the campaigns. Examine the organizations of both candidates. I don't think I could tell you who the main players are in Obama's campaign (with the exception of the economic adviser who talked to the Canadian and a memo was leaked saying that Obama was being two faced about NAFTA), other than he and Michelle. Frankly, I think that is the sign of a damn good organization. It is a sign that these people, who cooked up one of the most astounding ground organizations I've ever seen, believe in themselves and their candidate; they believe in a movement....more specifically, perhaps, a bloodless revolution. That is more important to them than getting recognition for this or that, which is what starts all the internal back-biting and blame-slinging we are seeing and hearing about in the Clinton camp. The next president is going to have to be able to pick a team; actually several of them, the members of which may not always be "revolutionaries," and that is as it should be. The last thing we need this time is a president who wants only "yes men and women." We need someone who can listen, with an open heart and mind, to all kinds of opinions when it comes to policy-making and relating to congress and communicating with the American people, and yet who can act quickly and deliberately in a time of emergency because he has chosen those people he wants in the situation room, sitting around the conference table with him shortly after that 3:am phone call comes in, thinking quickly and wisely and calmly. The last thing he needs is those who have been considered wise men and women in the past, but who are known, now, far and wide, as cover-up specialists, "respected in a bipartisan way," probably because they will eventually reach their limit and spill the beans. Unfortunately, by that time, thousands have been injured, maimed and murdered
Obama's people apparently don't have egoitis, to the point where they are bigger than the campaign like the Clinton team apparently has. Of course they want to win, but is it because they really believe in Hillary or because that win would look damn good on their resumes?
But candidates rarely admit they are considering dropping out until the moment they do. And Clinton, until the Ohio results came in, deflected questions about her plans yesterday, saying that she did not like to make predictions when asked repeatedly what she would do if she lost Texas, Ohio or both.
Hillary isn't going anywhere, now, even if she had ever intended to, which I doubt. There is that air of entitlement thing going on. We are headed for an old fashion DNC with floor fights and hair-tearing and heads exploding among the masses. No doubt there will be some kind of political hanky-panky and the voters will have to decide for themselves if they really want change; drastic change right down to the molecular level of our political system. Vows will be sworn (like for example; they are all crooks and thieves and it's time to bust this system wide open and throw all the bums out. From now on I'm a solid independent until we have a more transparent, honest, multi-party system") and our numbers will rise (independents), which is fine with us.
Whether or not the Democrats can come out of this convention with even the hope of unity will depend largely on the candidate that can lead his/her campaign in a way that will impress not only the voters within the party but independents and fed-up Republicans.
What do the voters really want for the next 4 to 8 years?
Government by investigation, like we had with Bill Clinton and the Rethugs?
Smart, outside-the-box thinking on the big three issues facing the country?
A president willing to do anything to win? (Why not re-elect BuCheney and the rest of those Democracy stealing thugs and liars? Remember, we don't have a constitution anymore that is actually enforced so the election could easily be canceled under the right circumstances. No pun intended.)
A president with real principles by which he/she lives and leads; a president who clearly understands that the time we face is like no other in our history. (As Chris Matthews said not long ago, "all bets are off." ) and who understands that he/she will need the American people really with him/her in a way no president has since, maybe, FDR; that he/she will need more than the voters to vote and go back to business as usual, because there won't be any such thing as business as usual for millions of Americans on inauguration day. I can't remember when the last good day on Wall Street or Main Street was being talked about on the news and it's only getting worse. New Orleans is still a drowned city except where citizens have gathered together to fix and restore, like the musicians village. There are other places around the country, the inhabitants of which are still living lives that have been torn asunder by natural disasters. There are more who are living through man-made disasters, like the sub-prime lending meltdown and a never ending war, prosecuted on lies and illegalities, which only contributes to an energy crisis which is finally effecting the price of everything, including those products necessary for life.
"No person has ever won the White House without winning the Ohio primary in either party, so I think Ohio is pretty important," Clinton said in an interview with the NBC affiliate in Columbus. "The voters are not ready for this to be over. They want to be sure they are picking the person who would be the strongest nominee against John McCain."
Like I said before, this is a new era. There is nothing standing in the way of a candidate winning the W.H. without winning Ohio. Old wives tales and superstitions don't matter anymore. If everyone is so sure that Ohio picks the president every 4 years, then why should the rest of us bother to vote at all. Just let Ohioans vote, and we'll have our president.
Clinton has been counting on Ohio and Texas to vault her back into contention after losing every contest since Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. Her strong showings in those states may now help curb what some Clinton strategists had expected to be escalating calls from senior Democrats to end her campaign in the interest of pulling the party together to face McCain, the Republican nominee. But Obama's allies said they would try to avoid piling on, recognizing that it might only prod her to stay in.
Look at the math, people, as in committed delegates. Any funny business with the super-delegates will lead to a McCain win as fed up Dems, independents and Republicans stage a very visible voter's strike so the TeeVee speculators won't have to speculate.
"I don't think anybody in the Obama campaign is going to tell her to get out," said former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), an Obama supporter. "Only Hillary can decide what's right and what her future course should be. It becomes increasingly difficult to see mathematically how she can do it, but there may be other reasons to stay involved other than winning the nomination."
Not if, in the process, she deeply scars the eventual candidate, Obama, making McCain's job much easier. McCain has shown already that he can and will make huge mistakes when it comes to dealing with Obama. It's clear that he isn't going to have fun dealing with the crusading crackpots of the Christian Right. He tries to make their hate speech, dressed in religious garb, a first amendment issue. That's not what it is at all. No one cares what kind of idiocy Hagee and the rest of the Preachin' Macadamias say to their flocks. No one is saying that he can't say whatever he wants to. He is, however, not guaranteed a huge megaphone by the constitution, not is he given direct access to the W.H., nor is he given the right to write policy, foreign (Armageddon; nuclear Holucaust) nor domestic (social programs to be run only by the crusading crackpot churches, public education will include that well known, proven scientific theory of creationism.)
Her organization, though, is drained of money and energy. Outgunned by Obama in the fundraising department, the Clinton campaign is carrying millions of dollars in debt, although officials would not say how much, and it threw everything it had into Texas and Ohio. Campaign aides expressed optimism that she will draw a new infusion of money after these primaries and have enough to go forward, although that remains unclear.
I'd say that's a pretty fair bet. She'll get a good sized infusion of money. My big concern is her elect-ability against McCain. What are the differences between them? Either of these candidates will mean business as usual, I feel sure. Of course I could be wrong. I really hate being right these days.
I do, however, believe that Hillary has a plan. There is something she wants to do as president, not just be president, unlike Bill. Bill never seemed to have a place to stand. It's really all a game with him, so when 1994 rolled around, he didn't have the people with him, not even his own. We wound up with a Congress so ideological and fierce, it began to awaken some of us.
D.C. can breathe easy. Nothing will change. Quid Pro Quo is as safe as it's always been. Status Quo will remain unless and until the people decide they've had enough and blow it to kingdom come (figuratively speaking, of course) and tear down K Street with their bare hands.
If the people really want change in the way our nation is run, neither of these two will do. They are both too invested in the status quo. McCain, so-called Maverick and reformer, has set himself up more as the gate-keeper; deciding what gets reformed and what doesn't and, from what I hear lately, withholding information from the public that might prove to be embarrassing to the GOP. Politics as per usual.
Perhaps just as significant, many on her team appear exhausted and dispirited. Advisers have not waited for Ohio and Texas to launch into a furious debate about whom to blame for her problems. Senior advisers described the infighting as debilitating and destructive, with some members of her inner circle barely speaking to one another. Many fault Mark Penn, the campaign's chief strategist, for crafting a message they said did not match the mood of the year. Penn's allies blame other advisers for mismanaging campaign finances and not putting organizations on the ground in many caucus states.
If they think more smearing is the answer, they might ought to re-think that. The thing about Canada and the crook in Illinois came out at the very last minute, as was planned I'm sure, not giving people time to digest what was being said and Obama's response, if the attacks had any effect at all. I guess we'll have to wait to find out from the pollsters.
I guess we've gone from White Water to Black Real Estate. (Yuck. That was bad, even for me.)
As recently as last week, there were divisions among top advisers over which advertisement to use against Obama -- one attacking his Iraq war position, or one featuring a "3 a.m. call" to the White House that describes Clinton as better prepared to be president. The latter advertisement won out. But Clinton advisers were infuriated about the original debate, blaming Penn for encouraging her to cling to an unsuccessful argument -- that Obama's deeds have not matched his stated opposition to the Iraq war.
It really pisses me off when it seems that politicians think I'm stupid or think my neighbor or people all over America are stupid, for that matter. Obama explains it all pretty well when he says that once someone drives the bus into the ditch, the problem then becomes, how do we get it out with the least further damage possible. Hell, no one knows what the situation will be when the next president takes office, if one does, in fact, take office. These people have 11 months to wreak as much havoc as they please. No one seems at all interested in stopping them. Junior breaks a big law, so what does Congress do? Write a law that makes whatever he did legal. I sometimes feel as if I have fallen into a super twilight zone from which I may never emerge.
Even though Penn claimed credit for the phone-call ad, senior Clinton advisers expressed confusion over whether Penn or Austin ad guru Roy Spence had made it. Penn's allies said he made the ad -- and insisted on airing it over the objections of other senior advisers, including Mandy Grunwald, who is technically in charge of ad making. Penn wrote the ad, his allies said, and Grunwald reluctantly made it, but then tried to get it spiked.
The sniping over the ad was the latest expression of divisions within a team that has never been cohesive. Advisers complained bitterly about one other, and stories in the media delineated their differences. Several people inside the campaign said earlier that if Clinton won last night, it would be despite her campaign, not because of it.
Moving forward, Clinton officials think she will probably lose the next two contests, in Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi on Tuesday. Their firewall, they hope, is Pennsylvania on April 22, giving Clinton time to continue raising doubts about Obama's experience, questioning his sincerity about toughening trade laws and appealing to women in a state that mirrors Ohio's working-class demographics. Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a strong Clinton ally, believes he could engineer a victory for her.
Wait a minute! Engineer a victory for her? Who the hell does Rendell think he is, Karl Rove? I've had about all the electioneering I can take! No more funny business, from either side, unless the powers that be want change much faster than had been anticipated by anyone. The kind of change that blows the status quo to hell . If the politicians don't think they are being watched like a suicidal patient in a nut ward they are really out of touch, because they are under a microscope. If there is one good thing that has come out of this dreadful, appalling administration it is that Americans are highly awake, alert and watching their elected officials and everyone else's for that matter. I have friends who wouldn't have known a super-delegate from a toad frog 5 years ago. They do now and they have very strong opinions about super delegates who go against the clearly expressed will of the people they represent.
In my life, I have done a lot of traveling, mostly in my own country, the USA. I've seen signs of prejudice in parts of Pennsylvania, but that isn't what may well win that state for Hillary. Certainly, Bill Clinton was a very good friend to that state when it was going through really tough times economically, as many of us were after 12 years of Voodoo Economics I, which can't hold a candle to Voodoo Economics II, under the current Bush regime, which is in the process of devastating our economy and which will negatively affect national economies all over the world.
We have seen only the bare beginnings of what is to come and no one will be able to stop it.
It is like a snowball rolling down a very steep hill. The plan is and has been, for a couple of years, to duct tape the American economy together until Bush and Cheney are gone.
Pennsylvanians may not be in a betting mood, which Bill Clinton says Obama is; a gamble. They may want a known entity, as they are, once again, one of the states that have been torn asunder by Junior and the Dick and their strange ideas of economics, the goal of which seems to be to break the federal government to the point where it can serve no purpose but national security and war. God help the next president, and the American people had better be prepared to help as well. There are no saviors except ourselves.
Anyway, Wyoming will go GOP in Nov, so I don't see that it matters all that much, except for winning a few more delegates and the nomination. Mississippi and the other deep south states that Obama has won, like Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana could well follow the pattern set up by Nixon's southern strategy in '68, but the GOP can't count on that this year. I've personally seen quite a few pick up trucks with gun racks and Obama bumper stickers in south Georgia (shocked the hell out of me). The Gulf States, especially Louisiana, have good reason to vote Democratic and with the exception of the Klu Klux Klan in Pearl River, La. and other small holdouts of hate, may well be inclined to vote for change no matter the color in which it comes rapped. These folks see the writing on the wall if the GOP remains in power, not only in the White House but on the Hill as well: "You're On Your Own, no matter how bad the catastrophe. Insurance companies will bail and the government will do nothing to stop them. The only entity with the legal authority and man power and the equipment to actually do any good in an emergency, like Hurricane Katrina, will do as little as possible and will show unbelievable incompetence when it finally does act, convincing the people, even further, that the federal government is the "problem not the solution." You're Own Your Own, Suckers!"
"The streak of losses has been snapped," one adviser said last night. "I think we touched bottom a week ago, and we've been coming back up, and the question was: Did we have enough time? And so far, based on the results, we did."
It's the math, stupid
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.