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February 23, 2008

If the Race is Over, Why is Clinton Still Fighting?

On Thursday I wrote that the next week and a half is going to be a face-saving exercise for Senator Clinton, because she's done and she knows it. Given the proportional allocation rules of the remaining primary states she cannot catch Obama's delegate lead unless she beats him in a twenty-plus percentage point landslide in each remaining state, something that we know isn't going to happen. Clinton supporters are keeping hope alive by rumbling about the Florida and Michigan delegations, but I have news for these folks: if those two delegations are seated at the convention it will be as a courtesy...because Clinton will have already dropped out.

I wrote that because Clinton's final answer at the debate sounded an awful lot like a concession speech:

You know, the hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country.

And I resolved at a very young age that I'd been blessed and that I was called by my faith and by my upbringing to do what I could to give others the same opportunities and blessings that I took for granted.

That's what gets me up in the morning. That's what motivates me in this campaign.

And, you know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.

Whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that's what this election should be about.

So if she's all done, what is she doing making new plagiarism claims against Obama? Why is she leafleting in Ohio? Why is she making appearances in Texas? Is it that she's hoping for a miracle? Does she know something about the superdelegates or even the pledged delegates that we don't?

No. Clinton wants to hang on and make a dramatic, forward-looking exit, one which will put her in a position to continue in Democratic politics after she drops out. For starters, she wants to stay a New York senator. She honestly likes her job and--as far as getting her way on the Hill goes--she's good at it. And if she keeps on doing it, she may just get another shot at the White House.

Right now she's walking a fine line: she doesn't want to look like she's giving up, but she also doesn't want to get beaten so bad she can't ever show her swollen face in public again. She wants to exit with a little flair, so the New York Times can write glowing puff-pieces about what a good sport she is and what a great campaign she ran. "No, no, friends," the op-eds will read in the Nation and Huffington Post, "You haven't seen the last of Hillary Clinton." Pity.

What this means is that she can't call off the dogs just yet. Any sign of hesitation or weakness will be exaggerated and magnified into stories that she gave up in the middle of the home stretch. Some fools will even write about how Clinton just wasn't tough enough for presidential politics. And that just won't do; not if she wants another shot at the big house with the cushy commuter jumbo jet and people screaming her name every second of the day and night.

No. Clinton goes on because she has to. She told her campaign that they're not done until they're really done. She has no other choice: the campaigns--especially on the Democratic side--are so intertwined with the press that if she were to try and quietly shift gears, it'd be on CNN about five minutes later. I think she called in her husband, her campaign chair, and a few select friends and told them that it's time to figure out how to pack up the circus and move back to New York.

And they are poised to pull that trigger. An email went out from President Clinton to her campaign mailing list today, which echoed his comment from earlier in the week: that the March 4th primary would be make-or-break for Hillary. He wrote that "We're just 10 days away from a monumental day of voting, one that will decide the outcome of this remarkable contest between two history-making campaigns." And then he asked for money. Heh.

"It will decide the outcome," he wrote. Believe it.

No, Dave, she's quite dead...for now.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:36 PM

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