David Brooks says it best in today's New York Times: Hillary's "Audacity of Hopelessness."
Does anyone even remember how exciting and fun American politics seemed just a short time ago? The Republicans were in a nose dive facing a field of weak candidates none of them liked, while the Democrats had three strong candidates, any one of which many Democrats would have been happy with. An embarrassment of riches. A lot of us were having a hard time making up our minds. Could we somehow get all three on the ticket? Or could we maybe skip the whole choosing bit and get on the good stuff of beating whatever joker the Republicans managed to limp into the election with. Hard to even remember, isn't it? Current polls show about a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters saying they will refuse to vote for the other in a general election. Meanwhile, all the sniping has dropped Obama from a double-digit lead over McCain among independents into a tailspin.
Brooks calculates Clinton's chances of winning the nomination at 5%. Asking whether it is worth it to continue the dogfight the Democratic primary has become for a mere 5% chance of victory, he calls on Clinton to withdraw. I have no idea how he arrived at this number of 5%, but however he got there it is silly, because it is easy to explain the situation Clinton is currently in without resorting to conjecture. The situation is quite simple. With Florida and Michigan re-votes off the table, she cannot possibly beat Obama in delegates or in popular votes. Her only hope is for a mass defection of superdelegates from Obama. But with the delegate and vote contests essentially over, the trend in super delegates is toward Obama. The only thing that could save her at this point is a major political catastrophe for Obama. Short of that, Clinton is done.
If she stays in the race in this point, one must conclude that the inner circles of the Clinton campaign have to be in hyper drive trying to cook up just such a scandal, for they surely know the electoral math better than I do.
Can she do this? Can she drum up a scandal so big that superdelegates will desert Obama in numbers sufficient to give her the nomination? Her best bet by far would in fact be not to drum up a new scandal but to continually light the fire under the existing one. And indeed, today there she was in Greensburg, PA, announcing that Jeremiah Wright "would not have been my pastor." She went on to compare Wright's sermons with Don Imus's characterization of the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy headed ho's." Both, she said, constituted "hate speech."
Clinton hereby serves notice that she will be throwing kerosene on the fire burning in the Democratic house, in hopes that the wing in which her rivals reside will suffer more damage than hers. This is audacious, "the audacity of hopelessness," of a candidate who simply does not know how to lose.
Losing is never fun. It hurts even more when the loser has the sense of entitlement that Clinton clearly has. She still believes it is "her turn." She put up with Monica Lewinsky and all of Bill's other affairs, she moved to New York, she worked in the Senate, she cut all the necessary deals, she did everything her handlers insisted she do. If she were in, say, China, where leadership is chosen bureaucratically, it would indeed be her turn.
But the US is a democracy, and no matter how carefully you dot the i's and cross the t's, ultimately you have to win the most votes, and by this basic democratic standard Clinton has lost. She is not accustomed to losing. The Clinton's won in Arkansas. They won the White House twice. She won her senate seat twice. But now she has lost, and her only hope is to create a scandal so all-encompassing that the vote she lost doesn't matter.
The whole idea of the superdelegates was to have a block of votes looking out for the interests of the party. It is time for them to step in and put an end to this.