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I Just Don't See How Obama Can Win This Thing

05/15/2008 09:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Barack Obama leads in the popular vote and by 153 pledged delegates in the race to the nomination. After Tuesday's primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, a large number of superdelegates are expected to announce for him, handing him an insurmountable lead. He's inspirational, has run a brilliant campaign, and just won the endorsement of John Edwards, the most authoritative progressive voice in the Democratic field. Obama's message is perfectly in tune with the mood of the electorate and the generational change poised to sweep the country.

In other words, I just don't see how Obama can win this thing.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, looks unbeatable. True, she has no chance of winning either the popular vote or the delegate count, her superdelegates have been migrating to Obama, and those defections have even included members of her own inner circle. Her campaign is $25 million in debt, her message that America needs an effective policy-wonk is the least inspiring slogan in political history, and the only young or well-educated person to support her is her daughter Chelsea. But when you look at the big picture, none of these drawbacks--a minority of popular votes and delegates, a black pit of a campaign debt, and a narrow slice of demographic support--will stop her from winning the White House, because she has one thing going for her that makes her unstoppable. For it seems, from all appearances, that Hillary Clinton doesn't listen to reason.

Before this campaign I did not know this about her, but it appears you just can't talk any sense into her. She's continued her campaign long past the point it became practically impossible for her to win, long past when any reasonable person would have conceded defeat. Months ago the rest of us would have said, "You know what? This has been great. We got our message out, we saw the country, and we met a lot of great people. But we can't win, so let's throw our support to the better candidate and take a well-earned vacation." But not Hillary. She. Just. Won't. Stop.

There's been a lot of talk about when and how Hillary might capture the Democratic nomination, but I think the pundits have it all wrong. Hillary isn't going to win the nomination before or even during the convention. She's going to lose, and Obama will get the nod. But after she's lost the nomination, she'll just keep going. She'll campaign right into the fall, staging rallies and meet-and-greets, appearing on the networks, talking about how yes, Obama may have won the Democratic nomination, but he just can't carry the key demographics a Democrat will need to win. She'll be right there, in the presidential debates, on the Sunday shows, cackling and giving high-handed answers to the tough questions, pressing her point that she has more experience and saying she only wants to have a conversation with the voters. An ever-narrowing cross-section of the voters, but hey, a conversation is a conversation.

"Tim!" she'll say on Meet the Press, "Senator Obama is a great man. And let's be honest, he's the Democratic nominee for President. I've already lost that fight. But I don't think America has had a chance yet to have its say in this process."

Even after Obama has selected his running mate, Clinton will keep going. It won't matter that she's broke. "I've made yet another $500 million loan to my campaign!" she'll say, to ever-dwindling crowds, "This train doesn't stop until November!" The networks will ask if her campaign is some sort of ploy to secure the nomination for Secretary of State or head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. She'll fondle the idea before dismissing it out of hand. Party insiders will wring their hands and offer assurances that "things are being done to end the Democratic contest" and that no one should be concerned, really. It will all be over by September, they'll say.

By mid-October, Obama will have had enough. And who will blame him? It will be obvious that Hillary is not really a monster, as Samantha Power inadvertently suggested, but some sort of immortal and vastly cunning super-zombie. Democrats will be about to split the vote and hand McCain the presidency, and it will have been more than 2 years, at that point, since Obama saw a beach or tasted a margarita. The man will see the writing on the wall. The rest of us will shrug our shoulders and admit that, in his shoes, we would do the same thing.

Of course there is one scenario that could forestall all of this, and create a Presidential race between the actual nominees of the two parties, but still give Hillary the shot at the White House that she so desperately craves.

That's right: A McCain-Hillary ticket.

You heard it here first.