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What Hillary Wants


The Washington Post

Eugene Robinson

May 23rd 2008

Commentators trying to discern Hillary Clinton‘s endgame strategy have posited any number of wheels-within-wheels scenarios worthy of a spy novel. The simple truth has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with instinct: Keep moving forward until you drop.

It’s not that she’s making a calculated play for the vice presidency or trying to set herself up for another campaign in 2012 or 2016. To those who know her, it’s that she really wants to be president, and that she has come tantalizingly close, and that she’s going to keep moving toward that goal even if there’s no obvious way to reach it. At this point, her campaign is about getting to tomorrow, and then getting to the next day, and then getting to the day after that.

Long ago, the Clinton campaign took to heart the Talking Heads’ advice to “stop making sense.” Back in January, the campaign’s position was that amassing delegates was the only true measure of who was winning the nomination. But when Barack Obama surged ahead in the tally of pledged delegates, winning 11 primaries and caucuses in a row, the Clinton brain trust started making a case for “the popular vote” as the most reliable indicator of the party’s wishes.

Does an aggregate count of votes mean anything when some states held closed primaries in which only registered Democrats could participate, some states held open primaries where independents and/or Republicans could also vote, and some states held caucuses that basically involved a show of hands in gymnasiums and community centers?

It means nothing. But the Clinton campaign has found a way to claim that if for some reason you did this ridiculous exercise of lumping together apples, oranges and bowling balls, and finally came up with two numbers, hers would be greater than Obama’s. Since Obama now leads substantially in both pledged delegates and superdelegates — and since he has enormous leads in fundraising and the number of states won — the spurious “popular vote” metric is all that Clinton has. So she’s playing the hand she was dealt.

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