Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hillary's Choice

I'd like to think that my asessments of yesterday's North Carolina and Indiana primaries were pretty reasonable. Obama took North Carolina comfortably, and Indiana was tighter than expected. And so we are left with the ubiquitous question of this election season: What's next?

In particular, what now for Hillary Clinton? Yes, she won Indiana, but that seems pretty clear to me to represent a Pyrrhic victory. Her margin was razor-thin, and her delegate take relative to Obama's negligible. Yes, she is likely to win West Virginia, and Kentucky after that, but then she is likely to lose Oregon and the remaining western states. And if Obama contests in Appalachia and if Democrats in those states get the sense that Clinton is a lost cause, the margins might not be as great as some suspect.

Reality is likely to set in if she is willing to face that reality. Superdelegates are beginning to shift toward Obama with some Hillary supporters beginning to back away from their support for her. Clinton cannot win, but she can harm the party in her zeal not to lose, and presumably enough people will need to pull her aside to reinforce these points if this race is going to be wrapped up by June. The colossal Clinton ego -- hers and his -- will need placating. She will likely need to get first shot at the Veepstakes, even if only to say no, and she will get a prominent place on the lectern in Denver. But it is time to think of November.

Clinton can, if she chooses, almost certainly play some sort of role in an Obama administration, whether as the Vice Presidential nominee or in the cabinet we do not yet know. Or she may choose to continue to grow as a lioness in the Senate, where if anything her record has been underrated. In other words, her career is far from over. At this point she can do incalculable damage not only to her party but also to herself in a Washington world where reputation is, if not everything, at least the one thing that might matter most. Most everyone in DC has lost in politics. There is no shame in that. But the District is not a place where desperation is looked upon especially favorably. It is time for Clinton to face the facts. It is time for her to drop out of the race.

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