With her campaign in tatters and her husband becoming unhinged, it is time to get real with Hillary Clinton: she hasn't found a way to connect emotionally with us, let alone given us a reason to vote for her, and the cold, hard truth is that we are just not that into her.
We want to say it's nothing personal, but it is, and the Clintons have now progressed from denial to anger, as they realize that it's not going to happen. We were never in love, at least not with her, and now there's someone else, someone tall, young and male, and she can never be any of those things, as Bill so backhandedly put it.
And so now, she and Bill are lunging at Barack Obama and, by extension, at us, who have elevated him to this lofty place. The Clintons (it is increasingly clear that if we had gotten anything, it would have been two for the price of one--again) really thought they were going to sweep this thing as recently as two weeks ago, and are sick with resentment. Projecting his own inability to speak the truth, ever, Bill is accusing Obama of lying about his position on the Iraq war, twisting the Illinois Senator's quotes to torturous and credibility-defying lengths, for a laughably ineffective result. Hillary's voice-cracking episode may or may not be real, but what was undeniably real was the steely reminder seconds later that "some of us are ready [to be President], some of us are not." Now how's that for not losing sight of your talking points (presuming she meant she was the one who was ready)?
The contrast with another New York loser, Rudy Giuliani, could not be greater: the notoriously volatile former mayor appears to be maintaining his cool, even looking serene, if completely disorganized, and still dead wrong on everything. Perhaps, it is because he has had more time to get used to the idea of a defeat, as his poll numbers started crashing in November, at first state-by-state, then nationally. However, with an average of about 5% of the votes in the first three contests (just above Duncan Hunter; you may not have heard of him, but he"s still running), the humiliation in store for him may be more acute than expected
Clinton and Giuliani have this in common, though: they have little choice but to bet heavily on their respective performances in Florida, where nothing short of a spectacular win will be enough to reestablish their credibility.
The difficulty is that each of them had a far better shot at a strong performance in the seemingly made-to-measure New Hampshire primary than in Florida, where no fewer than three Democrats and five Republicans have a plausible shot at a victory or a strong second place.
Giuliani could convincingly say that he skipped Iowa because his moderate social positions were anathema to evangelist voters' (he was right, as 60% of them showed up in the Republican primary and mostly voted for Mike Huckabee). But New Hampshire? Some of the most libertarian Republicans East of Arizona? Where abortion and same-sex unions matter about as much as earthquake insurance? The truth is, of course, that Giuliani did try to win (spending millions of dollars in the process), but it was just too difficult for the battle-hardened Hero of 9/11 to compete with three old men, a flip-flopping Mormon, and a former Baptist preacher.
Why would it be any easier in Florida? John McCain, fresh off his strong New Hampshire performance, is at least as big a threat there as in the Northeast. Mitt Romney's campaign is near-death, except in one major respect: he has instant access to tens of millions of dollars of his own fortune to spend as he sees fit (not done him much good so far, but without the financial investment, he would have probably finished dead last in Iowa). Huckabee has a built-in audience of religious conservatives, especially in Central and Northern Florida that could comfortably propel him to first place in a crowded field. Hell, if he's still in the race, even Fred Thompson could make one last, unlikely stand in the state: Iowa and New Hampshire have kept him alive (despite what his physical appearance may suggest), and South Carolina could provide a minor boost.
Clinton isn't facing as many rivals, but those she is competing with are fierce. That said, Florida has a closed primary, a huge over-65 crowd and a disproportionately female Democratic primary voter pool, making the state about as Hillary-friendly as it's going to get from now on. Clinton, though, has a growing problem with African-Americans, young people and John Edwards, all of whom could further sink her candidacy.
Disenfranchising African-American voters, including her few remaining supporters, by skipping South Carolina as she looks likely to do, and heaping inappropriate attacks on Obama will not endear her to the black electorate, who makes up about 20-25% of Democrats in Florida and a significant proportion in many other states. And Bill, demonstrating clearly that he does not care what happens at this point, is working overtime to make sure that people realize he was never the first black President (every day that characterization looks more absurd). Bitter, inconsistent, disorganized criticism of Obama, a man that many young people seem to be adulating, will just make the kids more intent and fuel what could easily become Clinton-hatred. As for Clinton's Edwards problem: the former hedge-fund investor doesn't seem to be wanting to go anywhere and in many states (Florida for one, I would say) he'll be taking more votes from her than from Obama (the Edwards campaign must think so, at any rate, judging by his ganging up with Obama against her).
It is a dreadful position Hillary Clinton finds herself in, but it is one that she, her husband and her campaign are accountable for, as much as Giuliani is responsible for his own strategic miscalculations.
Of course, the Clintons have gone to extreme lengths before to gain, hold onto and consolidate power, and they are likely to do so now. Exactly what that will involve is anyone's guess, but if they engage in a successful scorched Obama strategy, it will define once and for all what a pyrrhic victory is: how many of Obama's enthusiastic, cultish followers will turn up in November and vote for the person who took him down? And does Hillary really think that if she beats up our new man, we'll be more likely to get back together with her?