Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What Does Hillary Want?

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been running virtually neck-in-neck through much of the Democratic primary season. I say “virtually” because, at this point, Barack Obama has enough of an edge to almost mathematically eliminate Hillary from contention. Because of the peculiar rules of the Democratic Party, neither candidate has been able to score a full victory over the other. The existence of superdelegates that can overrule the popular vote is Hillary’s only chance to win the nomination at this point.

So Hillary cannot be counted completely out, but her chances of winning the nomination are currently nestled somewhere between slim and none, with slim rapidly leaving town. The big question is why Ms. Clinton continues to stay in the race, and spend millions of dollars on the campaign, when the odds are so heavily against her. The most likely possibility is that Mrs. Clinton is positioning herself for an Independent Democratic campaign for the presidency.

An independent campaign is not without precedent. In 2006, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to radical leftist, Ned Lamont. Lieberman continued his re-election campaign as an Independent Democrat and eventually won the election with 50% of the vote.

Like Lieberman, Hillary Clinton is losing the Democratic primary to a much more radical leftist. Obama’s radical connections and far-left platform, which help him in the Democratic primary, are likely to make him unpopular with moderate American voters in the general election. His inexperience and foreign policy gaffes will make him vulnerable to Republican nominee John McCain, especially as the war in Iraq winds down toward an American victory.

Hillary began preparing for her presidential campaign as shortly after leaving the White House in 2001, if not before. Her successful Senate campaigns in 2000 and 2006 were dress rehearsals for her run for the presidency. She did not expect serious opposition in the primary, especially from a political unknown. Her lack of preparation is the reason for her early losses and Obama’s early momentum. Recent primaries have been closely contested as Hillary fights for political survival.

Hillary realizes that her time is now. She knows that if Barack Obama is elected, it will be eight years before she has another chance at the presidency. Obama would be certain to run for re-election in 2012 and it is unheard of for a sitting president to lose the nomination. She also realizes that after eight years of Obama’s neophyte foreign policy and economic socialism, the country would be unlikely to elect another Democrat. If Obama loses the nomination, she stands to take a large share of the blame from Democrats because of her persistence in the divisive primary campaign. Therefore, she would be an unlikely choice for the nomination in 2012.

Mrs. Clinton’s continued participation in the primary is an attempt to build justification for her attempt to mount an independent campaign. She is attempting to show that she, and not Obama, offers the Democratic Party the best opportunity to win the swing states that are necessary for a successful White House run. Any Democratic candidate will win states like California, Massachusetts, and New York, but Hillary’s point is that she is more likely to win states that might fall into either column, such as West Virginia, Florida, and Ohio.

On this point, Mrs. Clinton is correct, and not for racial reasons. Swing state voters like moderate candidates and Barack Obama is no moderate. Obama was ranked the most liberal member of the US Senate by National Journal. Mrs. Clinton ranked 16th on the list. In 2006, her rank was a very moderate 32, while Obama never got higher than 16th on the list.

Additionally, Obama has just started to feel the effects of his associates. His relationship with Jeremiah Wright, which had little effect in the primary, is likely to hurt him in the general election. Michelle Obama, Barack’s wife, has also made statements that many interpret to be, if not anti-American, definitely out of the American mainstream. His association with Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers, Weather Underground terrorists and bombers, has not been widely reported, but may become and issue later. Similarly, the fact that his mentor and father figure was Communist Party member, Frank Marshall Davis, has also not been widely discussed yet.

Finally, Obama has his own ideas and statements to overcome. His statements about “bitter” people clinging to guns and Bibles offended many of the voters that he needs to win the presidency. His comment that “I won’t wear that [American flag] pin on my chest” likewise offends many moderate Americans. Obama’s anti-war views may also be an increasing liability as an American victory draws nearer. His plans to talk directly with Iranian and North Korean leaders seem naïve to many in light of the continued work on nuclear weapons by both countries in spite of years of negotiations.

In spite of his success in the primary, Barack Obama faces an uphill battle in the general election. Hillary Clinton is a more moderate candidate who would be more likely to win the swing states so important in a close election. By running an Independent Democrat campaign, she would offer an alternative to moderate voters who are uncomfortable with Obama’s radicalism on the left and John McCain on the right. She would be able to draw a significant amount of Obama’s leftist base as well as moderates from the center. If her bid is successful, she would be able to position herself as the person who rescued the Democrats from another presidential defeat.

Remember: You heard it here first.

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