What will convince Hillary to drop out?

by Stephen Tall on March 25, 2008

After a turbulent couple of weeks for Senator Barack Obama’s campaign, things are starting to look up – he has been tested and emerged relatively unscathed from the inflammatory comments of his turbulent Pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

At least as importantly, the US media is beginning to focus on how unlikely it is that Senator Hillary Clinton might ultimately triumph, with the ruling out of Florida and Michigan ballot re-runs, and the acceptance that Democratic superdelegates must not over-rule the popular choice.

Here’s David Brooks in today’s New York Times:

Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects continue to dim. The door is closing. Night is coming. The end, however, is not near. Last week, an important Clinton adviser told Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (also of Politico) that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance. Five percent.

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. … For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.

For three more months, Clinton is likely to hurt Obama even more against McCain, without hurting him against herself. And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance.

Nor is Mr Brooks a lone voice. The Economist also has a must-read article today, pointing out the real significance of Bill Richardson’s recent endorsement of Sen. Obama:

Last week Bill Richardson, a Hispanic and himself a former presidential candidate, endorsed Mr Obama. This will not have a big impact: Hispanics are unlikely to break en masse with him. But his tilt for Mr Obama may help to open doors for superdelegates. Mr Richardson was close to Mr Clinton, serving as ambassador to the United Nations and as energy secretary. Yet he has abandoned the Clintons for what he says is the unifying message of Mr Obama. If other superdelegates come to believe that Mr Obama is a unifier and Mrs Clinton is a dividing force, the young senator from Illinois may prove stronger than ever.

With Sen. Clinton (and her husband, of course) stumping in Kentucky, which votes in two months’ time (20th May), it’s clear the Clintons are in it for the long haul.

But all they can hope for is that the Obama campaign implodes, perhaps with a sharp prod from the obsessive Clintons. In which case, Sen. Clinton will have to pick up the pieces of a divided party, at least half of whom will blame her for bringing bright hope’s audacious candidate crashing to the ground for the sake of her personal ambition.

The more likely alternative is that Sen. Obama finds himself limping to the finishing line of the Democratic race in June, attacked by his foes and supposed friends alike, damaged in the eyes of the non-aligned independent voters who will be absolutely crucial to whoever hopes to win in the November general election.

Either way, it’s hard to see how this can have good ending for the Democrats.