“The key to success is not how many people we put in, but how many we keep from coming back."
At Hillary's victory party in Ohio on Tuesday night, supporters chanted "Yes She Will,"--a take-off on Obama's rousing "Yes We Can" theme, pared down from the collective energy of a grassroots movement to the individual determination of one dogged candidate who announced that she will not be stopped.
Obama is still so far ahead in the delegate count that it is virtually impossible for Hillary to catch up without persuading some superdelegates to vote for her against the expressed will of the majority of primary voters.
As Mark Halperin puts it in Time Magazine, "Given the remaining contests — many with electorates favorable to Obama — Obama's existing hundred-plus delegate lead, and the rules by which Democrats apportion delegates, it is almost a political and mathematical certainty that Obama will have an elected delegate lead at the end of the process, barring dramatic, unforeseen circumstances."
Or, as Chris Matthews put it during the Tuesday night play-by-play: "By the normal way we keep score, he has won this thing already." But the Clintons have "enormous clout" within the Democratic Party, as Matthews points out. That's one explanation for why the press--despite its recent bashing for being pro-Obama--switched from drafting Hillary Clinton's obituary Tuesday night to declaring her the candidate with the "momentum" to win the nomination.
"As Ohio goes, so goes the nation," Clinton told her cheering crowd. "Well, this nation is coming back and so is this campaign."
Hillary's campaign has only a few ways to stage its comeback against the numerical odds. First, as spring turns to summer, we will likely see more ads attacking Obama. The "3 a.m. phone call" ad seems to have worked for her in Texas. We have seen other examples of these tactics already: the mocking references to Obama's speeches about hope, the questions raised about his judgment and experience, and the darker intimations about race, religion, and a general sense of unease over whether he can protect us from amorphous fears of terrorism and violence.
The Hillary campaign has to do a lot of damage with these negative attacks--through the candidate herself or surrogates--to overcome the odds. Buckle your seat belt for an ugly ride.
Next, there will be the battle over superdelegates and do-over elections in Michigan and Florida. There will likely be accusations of voting irregularities by both camps. The lawyers and experts in arcane delegate apportionment rules will step in.
Between the fear factor and the brewing battle over whether to overturn the popular vote, Hillary could end up running as George W. Bush to Obama's John Kerry or Al Gore. It's not such a stretch. CBS News reported Clinton’s comments comparing herself favorably with Republican nominee John McCain, saying his foreign policy experience, like hers, trumps Obama’s: “I think you'll be able to imagine many things Senator McCain will be able to say,” she said. “He’s never been the President, but he will put forth his lifetime of experience. I will put forth my lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002” [opposing the Iraq war]. The Republican-lite argument might hurt Obama now, but it will not help Hillary if she is the party's nominee.
A long, nasty battle right up to the convention could seriously weaken Obama. If Hillary wins without a clear majority or thanks to a very negative campaign, don't expect an outpouring of grassroots support at the polls in November.
It's a long way from 'Yes We Can" to "Yes She Will." Any way you slice it, if Hillary keeps heading down that road, a lot of people will be left behind.