Saturday, February 16, 2008



The ideological and philosophical differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cannot be described as anything resembling a chasm. In fact, their approach to government and the issues differ only in details. To this I must add the caveat that Mrs. Clinton’s views on anything are subject to change dictated by political expediency. That having been said, at least at this moment the views of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are pretty much in sync. This is the source of Mrs. Clinton’s trouble. Since there are few ideological differences between the two candidates, it comes down to a contest of personalities, and in such a contest, given that Richard Nixon is dead, Mrs. Clinton can always be expected to lose. This is especially to be expected when she is locked in such a race with a personally attractive candidate like Mr. Obama. But I digress.

Since we are left with few ideological differences to discuss, we are left with the horse race aspects of this race as grist for our political conversations for the next few months. This is not entirely a bad thing. First, for people like me, and doubtless for many of my readers, there are few ideological differences to discuss not only within the parties but also between the parties. The differences between the Republicans and Democrats boils down to the direction in which one would like to see the government grow. Oh boy. And both will assuredly grow government in the direction of their paymasters, who, in many, if not most, cases are the same people for both parties. What a choice. Second, for political (but not politician) enthusiasts like me, and doubtless many of my readers, the horse race aspects are always interesting. For reasons I have outlined in many previous posts, and that should be obvious to any sentient reader, this is, from a purely horse race aspect, the most interesting election season in recent, or even less recent, memory.

The conventional wisdom is that Mrs. Clinton must run the table in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in order to remain viable in the race for the Democratic nomination. This is one of the few instances in which the conventional wisdom is correct, though one must point out that Mrs. Clinton’s being in this precarious position is testimony to the fascinating nature of this race, to wit: How can a candidate win New York, Massachusetts, and California, and convincingly so, and still not be the Democratic nominee? Astonishing. But I digress, again. Mrs. Clinton must win the Big 3, but I think an earlier race will be nearly as fecund for those trying to call this race.

Wisconsin holds a primary on Tuesday. Though Senator Obama is ahead in the polls in Wisconsin, the race in America’s Dairyland might be more interesting than most people think. Wisconsin is not all that much different demographically from Ohio, a state in which Senator Clinton is expected to win. Both are largely blue collar and slightly less educated than the country as a whole. Both are large Midwestern industrial states composed largely of medium sized cities with large pockets of ethnic voters. Both are Whiter than the country as a whole, but not to the degree of, say, Iowa or New Hampshire. Both have been hit hard by the Bush “prosperity” for which Larry Kudlow makes his living cheerleading. Both have heavy union representation. Wisconsin does have a reputation for being more liberal than Ohio, largely because of Madison’s only partially deserved reputation for being something of a Sodom and Gomorrah of liberalism and Wisconsin’s history of being the home of Bob Lafollette’s Progressive movement. But this reputation has been overblown for years.

Given the two states’ similarities, it is hard to imagine that Mrs. Clinton could be far ahead in Ohio and far behind in Wisconsin, as the polls seem to indicate. So watch Wisconsin. If Obama wins, as he probably will, unless he wins REALLY big, nothing changes. But if Clinton keeps it close, the race gets a little more interesting. And if Clinton pulls off the upset, she becomes the frontrunner again.

There is a larger reason than the potential that Wisconsin holds for Clinton for not yet ceding the nomination to Obama. It is obvious that this is Hillary Clinton’s last shot at becoming president, an office of which she has dreamed since adolescence. She is 60 today and will be 61 on Election Day. More importantly, if she manages to blow what was supposed to be a mere coronation for her, it will have proven, even to her, that the American people don’t want another Clinton in the White House. It is also fairly clear from their history that the Clintons will do ANYTHING to obtain and hold power and that the only thing that matters to the Clintons is the Clintons, and I’m not even so sure that “Clintons” ought to be pluralized in this context, and not just for grammatical reasons. Thus, the Clintons will stop at NOTHING to win this nomination, be it dirty tricks, last minute “revelations” about Barack Obama’s past, or even tearing the Democratic Party apart through manipulating, cajoling, or even threatening the super delegates. They will do whatever it takes and worry about the consequences later.

Yes, it looks bleak for Hillary Clinton at this juncture, and many of us who thought, as recently as a month or two ago, that this would be a cakewalk for her are astounded. However, you can never count her out; she and Bill are smart, organized, and devious (and quite entertaining, by the way, but that is another issue). You never know what they might pull in order to get this nomination.

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