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.

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