US Election 08: Clinton's Last Chance To Go Gracefully

By Gordon Campbell
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Hillary has been talking tough (and sounding hollow) ever since the Indiana/North Carolina primaries results came in yesterday, but that’s only to convince prospective donors that she’s still viable. Really, its all over at last. Barack Obama has an unassailable lead on the popular vote/pledged delegate count, and has been winning over superdelegates at a 5:1 ratio to Clinton of late, even during his last month of troubles. That flood should now become a tidal wave, at the same rate as the money flow finally dries up on Clinton’s campaign, and lack of money will be the decisive factor that finally ends it for her. The more important issue right now is – how much damage, if any has the months of bruising scrapping done to the Democrats? Surprising little, compared to the damage that George W. Bush continues to do to the Republicans on the economy and on the Iraq war. As the New Republic magazine recently pointed out, Gallup data shows that since 2002, those people who identify with the Democratic Party have increased by seven percentage points, to create what is now a 52-39 identity split among Americans in favour of the Democrats, over Republicans.

At the same time, the epic Clinton/Obama struggled has energised Democratic enrollment. In Pennsylvania alone, as the New Republic says, there are now about 800,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania. “And even in states without party registration, such as Ohio and Virginia, the fact that turnout in the Democratic primary dwarfed turnout in the Republican primary suggests that a similar movement has been taking place. “

Which suggests that even if some die-hard Clinton Democrats do decide to stay home in November and sulk, the race has sufficiently energized the party overall to more than make up the difference. I should warn that this isn’t a sure thing – in 2004, the Democrats still racked up record numbers in its voter registration and lost with John Kerry as candidate. But as the extremely close primary result yesterday in Indiana showed, Obama is not as unelectable as the Clinton camp has been claiming.

Yes, she did cream him 65-34 among white male voters with no college degree. . But as Slate’s John Dickerson says, “among those making less than $50,000, she beat Obama by only four points in Indiana. When voters were asked which candidate was most likely to improve the economy, Clinton and Obama tied. Among those who listed the economy as their top issue, Clinton won by only two points in Indiana. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, she had won those groups by vast margins. “

Yet, like Kerry, is Obama seen as too elitist ? At times. But perhaps not as irredeemably as Kerry was in 2004. As Dickerson continues, when voters were asked which candidate “shares your values,” Obama performed just a little better than Clinton.

During the campaign proper, John McCain will undoubtedly resurrect Obama’s links to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Weatherman activist William Ayers and Chicago slum lord Tony Rezko, but – thankfully – these skeletons have all been brought out of the closet and thoroughly aired over the last few months by Clinton. McCain will need some fresh ammunition, and is hardly an unblemished candidate himself.

A few months ago, one US columnist – clearly a snooty elitist – compared Clinton to the Marschallin in the Richard Strauss opera Der Rosenkavelier – namely, the worldly wise sophisticate who tests her young lover Octavian, but finally sends him out into the world to his true destiny, seasoned and ready. If Clinton does likewise – if she can wish Obama the best of luck and exit gracefully, there might even be room for her to be honoured at the August Democratic convention in Denver, and not reviled.

ENDS