Of Course Hilary Clinton Is Staying in the Race

Senator Hilary Clinton made it clear she’s in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination until the end … which is all of three more weeks. What a non-shocking bit of news. Of course she is. If she can raise the money (and at one point her victory speech in West Virginia tonight was beginning to sound like a telethon — I half expected Jerry Lewis to come on stage).

The fact that she won’t win the nomination is not the issue. She makes history every day she remains in the race. Every primary she enters is further in the nominating process than any woman has gone before. Add to that her pride in being a person who never quits and there’s no way she can withdraw. Unless she has to.

And the only reason she would have to is if she runs out of money. Some talking head said her campaign costs about $1 million a day. Another said the campaign owes staff, vendors and lenders about $20 million (Senator Clinton has lent the campaign roughly $10 million so far). I’m sure she can cut her expenses some, but still, that’s a lot of cash.

Fortunately, she’ll get some from her supporters. They’re ardent and the Alamo mentality is kicking in. They’ll want to fight to the end so expect a few million to show up in her coffers this week. Plus, she can lend her campaign a few more wheelbarrows of cash. Senator Barack Obama, once he’s the nominee, will help her retire her debt. And, worse comes to worse, she can write another book or husband Bill can give a few more speeches in Japan or the Middle East.

What will be interesting to watch over the next three weeks is how Senator Clinton behaves and what she says. Ideally she’ll focus her attacks on the presumptive GOP nominee, Senator John McCain. She’ll of course emphasize her own strengths, but she should refrain from giving Republicans any more ammunition than she already has.

And then there’s Michigan and Florida. Senator Clinton wants to forgive those states for breaking the Democratic National Committee’s rules. She wants their delegates seated as the vote stands. This is, of course, ridiculous. Why would the DNC forgive state parties that willfully and knowingly break the rules? What message does that give to the other states? What would happen in 2012 or 2016 if the Democratic Party says “never mind” in 2008?

Besides, holding out for all their delegates makes Senator Clinton look silly — or worse. She acquiesced to the party decision before the vote. It’s insulting to voters to think that she now finds the situation a violation of civil rights. Politicians tend to be self-serving, but Senator Clinton is in danger of taking the concept to new heights. Her credibility is at stake. She needs to spend the days leading up to the DNC rules committee meeting on Michigan and Florida focusing on her legacy, not reminding people that her principles are so fluid.

Senator Clinton has moved beyond being a candidate. She’s a cause now, both in her own mind and those of her strongest supporters. You don’t end a cause three weeks before the end. Hopefully, you don’t do damage to your legacy with just three weeks to go either.

Clinton’s Earned the Right to Continue

It’s not easy running for office, especially for president. It’s not just the hours that are grueling and the food that is, well, grueling.  It’s not just the ceaseless travel, time away from family and having to give to the same speech over and over and over and over again. It’s also putting yourself totally on the line. It’s voluntarily making yourself a fair target for late night television jokes, for water cooler gossip, for talking head nonsense, for your opponents’ attack teams and for bloggers everywhere.

If you’re running just for ambition or ego it’s not worth it. If, however, there’s more to your campaign than self-aggrandizement, if you care about issues and politics and public policy, then it’s a price wroth paying.

I believe Senator Hillary Clinton does mix public concern with personal ambition. I’ve never been a fan of hers. Her health care reform efforts in the early 90’s were the epitome  of the elitism she now attacks: only she and her team had the answer – opinions from others were treated as attacks, not helpful advice. It was an attitude that marked her tenure as First Lady.

That arrogance, now coupled with a sense of entitlement, marked her presidential campaign from the start. The combination was more than off-putting, it was insulting. The tactics she turned to when the going got tough were demeaning, ham fisted and boneheaded. I got my start in politics over 35 years ago working for women candidates when they were few and far between. I’d like to see a woman as president in my life time. I just never wanted to see Senator Clinton as president.

Yet I also recognize that her current health care reform proposal, while seriously flawed, is better fashioned than Senator Barack Obama’s. And I do believe buried beneath the calculation and spin that marks her campaign, there’s a sincere commitment to improving the wellbeing of average Americans. It’s this sincerity and passion for public service that makes her campaign meaningful and, for her, worth the cost.

You know she’s lost the nomination. I know she’s lost the nomination. Even while praying for an unexpected, earthshaking revelation about Senator Obama, she knows it, too. Still, if she wants to play on through to the last primary she should. She’s earned that right. She’s paid the price of admission – in time, pain, money, occasional humiliations and frequently indigestible food. Those calling for her to withdraw should quiet down for at least a few weeks.

Dreams die hard. Senator Clinton dreamed long and fervently of the Democratic nomination in 2008. Less than five months ago it seemed achieving that dream was a certainty. Now it’s certain not to be. If Senator Clinton needs time to come to grips with that, let’s give her the time.

Obama-Bayh in 2008?

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh was highly touted as a potential running mate for Senator Hillary Clinton. But after last night’s primaries, it’s increasingly unlikely that position will be available. To anyone. However, by helping Senator Clinton win Indiana’s Democratic primary, Senator Bayh has created a new opportunity: running for Vice President on an Obama-Bayh ticket.

Senator Bayh was a two term governor of Indiana who lowered taxes, balanced budgets, demonstrated a commitment to improving education and creative approaches to welfare. As a Senator he sits on the Armed Services committee (along with Senators Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton), the Intelligence Committee and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Most significantly, he’s a proven vote getter in a red state who appeals to the working class voters Senator Obama has been losing to Senator Clinton. His selection as a running mate by Senator Obama would be a clear signal to these voters that they would neither be ignored nor forgotten in an Obama administration.

As an added bonus, turning to Senator Bayh to complete the Democratic ticket would be a magnanimous and potent gesture to the Clinton campaign. Senator Bayh was an early endorser of Senator Clinton. They are long time friends and close allies. He campaigned tirelessly on her behalf in Indiana. An Obama-Bayh ticket would not be as unifying as an Obama-Clinton teaming, but it would still go far in binding the party together again after the long and sometimes vicious primary fight.

Some will argue that Senator Bayh, being from Senator Obama’s neighboring state, fails to offer geographic diversity.  True. Who cares? Governor Bill Clinton and Senator Al Gore were both from the South, yet they won. Besides, the Midwest is hardly a region Democrats can ignore.

The pluses far outweigh any minuses. Senator Bayh is a moderate (he’s a former chair of the Democratic Leadership Council). He has deep experience as an executive dealing with domestic issues and as a Senator on matters both foreign and domestic. He helps bring the party together and bolsters Senator Obama’s appeal to Reagan Democrats. As a visible and strong supporter of his primary opponent,  his selection would underscore Senator Obama’s commitment to reaching across political divisions.

All of this means that the biggest winner Tuesday night may have been Senator Evan Bayh.

The Four Months and Three Days Difference

It was just four months and three days ago that Iowans held their presidential caucuses. Up to that date, January 3, 2008, Senator Hilary Clinton held herself out as the inevitable nominee. She had the experience, the money, the connection, the establishment support to establish herself as the ultimate winner by Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008 — just three months and one day ago. It didn’t work out.

Instead she’s found herself challenged to stay in the race. She’s managed to survive more cliff hangers than Indiana Jones with the help of voters in New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. Of course, she’s also had the help of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and some missteps by the frontrunner, Senator Barack Obama.

That the word “frontrunner” and “Barack Obama” can be uttered in the same sentence without anyone gasping is gasp worthy. In only his third year in the Senate he’s taken on the establishment and held his own. He’s faced horrendous negative press — some self-inflicted — and still holds the lead in delegates and the popular vote among Democrats.

That last point, of course, would be contested by Senator Clinton. The Queen of Spin, she’s claiming that the vote tallies of Michigan and Florida count, even though Senator Obama’s name wasn’t on the Michigan ballot and little campaigning occurred in Florida as both states primaries were ruled invalid by the Democratic National Committee. For Senator Clinton to claim she’s received more votes than Senator Obama an asterisk that would dwarf any required by slugger Barry Bonds would be required. Frankly, I don’t think they make asterisks big enough for Senator Clinton’s claim.

And that’s the irony. The inevitable nominee just four months and three days ago is forced into spinning some semblance of a story that might appeal to Democratic super delegates. Only she can win the big states in November (does anyone really believe New York, California, Massachusetts and many of the others will go for Senator John McCain in the general election?) Only she, the wealthy Senator from New York can connect with low-income voters in the Midwest. Only she has the experience, experience her husband lacked, to be president.

If Americans trusted Senator Clinton she wouldn’t be in this predicament. Her spin skills are both her strongest asset and her greatest weakness. It makes the charge that her gas tax holiday is politically motivated stick, most likely because it is politically motivated.

Ironically, if she wins in both Indiana and North Carolina today none of this will matter. She won’t need spin to claim the momentum has swung her way. But it’s more likely to be a split decision. Which means the inevitable nominee will face more cliffhangers in more states. It’s amazing what four months and three days can do.