THE BLOG
03/31/2008 10:49 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Is Right: Words Matter When You Want Your Opponent to Leave the Race

AOL News reports this:

Despite calls for his rival to drop out of their tight race for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama said Saturday, "My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants."

Note the tepid and dismissive "Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants." In one carefully chosen short phrase, Barack Obama uses a verb form that bestows his permission, as if she needs it, while at the same time subtly belittling her because she is staying in the race. Both of these rhetorical techniques aim to diminish one's opponent while seeming to be gallant and awarding oneself the cloak of the putative front runner who can afford to be generous.

But is he the front runner?

Within the same AOL news article is a straw poll asking who readers would vote for. Click on the map and you see that Clinton wins over Obama 52%-48%. To be sure it is an unreliable self-selected poll. Possibly Hillary's numbers are inflated by other people like me who never before voted in those straw polls but who are so insulted by the Obama-supporting pundits and politicians incessantly hammering their "she should quit" nail that we have taken to clicking for Clinton every chance we get. Even the Wall Street Journal has acknowledged the blatant sexism and rampant bias.

On the other hand, the facts are that national polls show the two candidates still volleying back and forth. It made sense for the other candidates to end their campaigns -- Dodd and Biden at low double digits in the polls, and even John Edwards whose contributions were drying up after too many third-place showings in the early primaries and caucuses. But remind me again, why is it that Clinton should quit but Obama should stay in the race when their delegate count is separated by just 133 and Clinton keeps winning the big states the Democrats must have in November to capture the White House?

Perhaps Obama should live up to his gallantry, throw down his cloak Sir Walter Raleigh-esque so the lady can walk over the latest mud slung against her, and into the nomination gracefully. After all, she is the elder, she is the senior of the two senators, she was in this race first, and she has an enormous constituency. In all other aspects of life, the etiquette would be to let her go first.

Or perhaps Obama's statement was merely words after all.