In a boxing match when one competitor has lost two rounds on points and is taking a beating in the third, the cries go out to call the bout — in favor of his opponent, that is. But many Democratic primary watchers are now offering a bizarre new rule of combat: stop the fight and declare the bloodied, flailing combatant the winner.
That is precisely what much of the liberal media, otherwise known as Barack Obama’s support staff, is urging. The New York Times made that plea the day after the Pennsylvania primary, calling for the superdelegates to “settle the bloody race.” Despite Clinton’s impressive win in Pennsylvania, the Los Angeles Times intoned that the race was essentially hopeless — for Clinton — and that she had failed to provide “new evidence that would compel Democratic Party elders to step in and anoint Clinton as their White House nominee.” Well, that is other than a 200,000 vote margin in a must-win state for Democrats. Likewise, the Washington Post declared on Wednesday that Obama’s lead was “almost insurmountable.”
But it was up to Maureen Dowd to summon up Dr. Seuss’ Marvin K. Mooney, calling for Clinton to “just go now.” That, after Dowd had reminded readers that Clinton had all but emasculated Obama, reducing him to a tower of Jell-O in the debate.
Now this is nothing new for the Obama-infatuated pundit class. Back in early March Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter called for Clinton to “get out” and weeks before the Pennsylvania race Nora Ephron of the Obama-devoted Huffington Post echoed the same theme.
The Obama crowd is plainly worried that their man is sinking under a wave of increased media scrutiny and is irritated by his inability to make good on his promise to build a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-anything coalition.
The call for Clinton to abandon the race seems increasingly strange after she has logged substantial wins in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Simply put, there is no good reason for the Democratic Party and, the superdelegates specifically, to listen to the entreaties to hand the nomination to Obama.
Despite the whimpering from the punditocracy, Clinton does not face an insurmountable barrier to the nomination. We have long since passed the point at which either candidate could claim a victory based on pledged delegates so it truly is in the hands of the superdelegates.
Clinton has already spelled out her formula for victory: counting Florida and Michigan (where real voters did go to the polls) she now leads in the raw popular vote; the superdelegates should recognize that and, much more importantly, the electoral handwriting on the wall. The superdelegates may not relish the prospect of dumping the Agent of Change and facing the wrath of the Dowds and the Ephrons, but they might be wise, from their perspective, to do just that.
Clinton has made a strong case, both on policy and demographics, that she would make a superior nominee to go up against John McCain. Looking at policy first, let’s put aside the argument that her proximity to the Situation Room gives her national security credentials. Her real argument is that she won’t carry the baggage of weak-on-defense Democrats who saw their electoral chances evaporate in the barrage of GOP ads interposing their photos with America’s enemies.
Once she dispenses with the nomination process she can say what she really has meant to say (and almost did in the waning days of the Pennsylvania primary): she is not one of those fuzzy headed liberals who wants to have tea with dictators and attracts Hamas endorsements; she’s more than willing to bomb Iran to smithereens if they mess with us or Israel. That’s a message that might enable her to hold on to some national security voters.
On domestic policy she has made her case successfully (at least with Democratic primary voters) that she is the fix-it gal for what ills the American economy. Winning overwhelmingly (59-41%) among Pennsylvania voters who see the economy as the biggest concern, her mix of populist rhetoric and a modicum of restraint (maybe a capital gains tax is not the way to go and perhaps raising the payroll tax salary cap would affect more than just the rich, she offered in the last debate) may be a more effective foil against McCain than Obama (who confessed he didn’t much care if the capital gains rate increase brought in less revenue so long as the really rich got soaked).
But the real advantage which Clinton holds, and which should garner the attention of those superdelegates, is that Clinton, not Obama, has proven her ability to put together a winning coalition of women, whites, rural and small town voters, seniors, Catholics, Jews, union members and downscale Democrats. She did it in Ohio and again in Pennsylvania. With Obama attracting less than 40% of the white vote and relying on the historically unreliable youth vote, the potential for an electoral wipeout with him as the nominee looms large.
Yet, he argues, won’t those very same voters flood back to him after he secures the nomination? He hopes so, but there is little to suggest that they all or even most of them will. His putrid showing in northern and western Pennsylvania counties (many of which he lost by more than 30 percentage points) where many of these voters reside suggests that he will be a hard sell in November. His “cling” comments and grab bag full of exotic, radical connections (from Bill Ayers to Reverend Wright) will not make his task any easier. And if the polls are any indication, a higher percentage of disappointed Clinton voters (25%) will defect to McCain or stay home than would his (17%).
So at bottom: the premise and the conclusion of the “Hillary, Get Out Now!” crowd is misguided (unless you are rooting for a McCain win). She can certainly win the nomination — the superdelegates just need some steel in their spines. And more importantly, she would likely be the more effective nominee. Democrats concerned about winning the White House might reconsider giving the nomination to the guy who is losing races by double digits.
Jennifer Rubin is a writer living in Virginia. She is a regular contributor to Human Events, American Spectator and the New York Observer and blogs at Commentary’s Contentions.