THE BLOG
03/18/2008 05:43 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Huckabee Hillary

It's become increasingly obvious that no matter what Senator Clinton does, she can neither overtake Senator Obama's pledged delegate advantage nor his popular vote lead. The Clinton plan, as her camp has admitted, essentially boils down to convincing the superdelegates that Clinton is the better candidate and that Obama is electorally flawed. But even the superdelegates are indicating that they will not contravene the will of the Democratic electorate, undermining the Clinton plan before it's begun.

So, why is Clinton still hanging around? There are many reasons why she hasn't bowed out; call it tenacity, optimism, stubbornness, or devotion to her loyal supporters. Even for this Obama booster, these reasons are politically legitimate (at this point), and I'm happy to accept them (for now) and let the rest of the delegate chips fall where they may. But there is a greater reason that may underlie Senator Clinton's willingness to stick it out as long as possible: you never know what might happen between now and Denver. I don't mean that she's holding out hope for the improbability of winning 65%+ of the remaining vote. No, the ball is almost entirely in Obama's court, and it's not anything within Clinton's power that can tip the balance. Rather, it's the potential for an Obama implosion that has to give the Clinton camp the most succor in these trying times.

Yes, Hillary has adopted the role of the erstwhile Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee. The deck is stacked against her, yet she has nothing to lose by continuing her campaign and hoping that Obama makes a severe-enough misstep to effectively remove him from contention. Don't get me wrong, there are enough differences between the Clinton and Huckabee candidacies--well-heeled campaign, name recognition, party machinery, etc.--that the comparison is far from total, but on the issue of questionable longevity the two campaigns are remarkably similar.

Take, for instance, the McCain/Vicki Iseman almost-scandal. In a fleeting moment of intra-party schadenfreude and possible opportunity, Huckabee supporters reveled in (and Romney supporters lamented the timing of) one of the only miracles that could loosen McCain's hammerlock on the GOP nomination: a candidacy-ending sex scandal. Similarly, the Clinton team has doubtlessly been looking upon the Obama/Wright brouhaha with a mix of cautious optimism and curiosity. In their post-Ferraro hesitancy to discuss any topic too overtly racial, the Clinton campaign has repeatedly (and wisely) demurred when asked to comment on Reverend Wright. The media is already giving the story enough play, and Obama's scheduled speech on issues of race and society is likely to keep the Reverend in the media mind through the rest of the week. Then, if Mark Penn and co. decide that more hay needs to be made from the Wright story, say in the days preceding any upcoming primaries, they can't be blamed for repeatedly pushing the story.

Obama is making a concerted effort in this extended lull before the Pennsylvania primary to sweep clean his closet of any remaining skeletons, choosing to confront head on Reverend Wright's controversial comments and open up more fully about his relationship with Tony Rezko. But these stories are far from complete. Obama may effectively be able to assuage concerns about his pastor, highlight Wright's positive messages, and embrace the opportunity to open a dialogue about moving beyond race and division. On the other hand, who's to say that there's not another damaging chapter in the Wright story waiting to be written. And, as the Rezko trial continues with campaign staffers littering the courtroom audience for possible oppo material, there's the potential for new poll-influencing information with each day's testimony.

This may give team Clinton some hope, but what has to be discouraging is that Clinton seems to be losing control over her destiny. Sure, a victory in Pennsylvania seems to be in the offing, but beyond winning states by insufficiently large margins, Clinton will be reduced to waiting for an Obama blunder so big as to cause the superdelegates to defy their stated principles. Indeed, much like Huckabee, Clinton may have to hold out for a miracle.