By Marie Cocco
WASHINGTON—Have you noticed something similar about those Barack Obama campaign surrogates and the media soothsayers who have started a drum-beat to force Hillary Clinton out of the Democratic presidential contest? Hint: They tend to share a certain anatomical attribute.
I guess the boys are just being boys again. They’ve failed to dispatch Clinton in the race thus far—remember, they were predicting the fall of the “house of Clinton” in New Hampshire. Then Kennedy magic was supposed to transform Obama into the anointed nominee on Super Tuesday, but star-power appearances in California by the women of Camelot failed to help Obama there, and not even Ted Kennedy could deliver his home state of Massachusetts. Clinton won decisively in the Bay State and took all the big states on Super Tuesday, except Obama’s home state of Illinois and Missouri, where he edged her by a single percentage point.
Clinton then was supposed to bow out after March 4 if she did not win the crucial states of Texas and Ohio. But darn! She messed up their game plan again by winning both of those states—and Rhode Island, too.
Those looking ahead now see no way, based on current polling and the way the demographics of Pennsylvania break down, that Obama will win that next mega-state on April 22. Those looking even further ahead see only more uncertainty—a series of contests lasting until June in which some states seem to naturally favor Clinton (Kentucky, West Virginia) while others seem to favor Obama (North Carolina, Oregon).
Since we’re talking boy-talk here, we might as well get right into their rhetorical comfort zone: Obama now is ahead by a field goal in the third quarter. But the fourth quarter has yet to be played and who knows what the score will be at the end of regulation? So here’s their plan, hatched in the locker room: Push Clinton off the field now so that Obama can take his early victory lap.
Obama denies that he is personally behind this strategy. But let’s face it. The pronouncements by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., both big-name Obama supporters and superdelegates, that Clinton needs to limp away with her head held low looked terribly orchestrated.
Leahy was particularly odious when, after declaring Clinton had “no way” to win the nomination, he offered her a very warm seat. It happens to be one she already holds and it is, of course, comfortably below the glass ceiling. “Frankly, I feel that she would have a tremendous career in the Senate,” Leahy declared.
If it weren’t so galling, it would be amusing to watch the Democratic men shuffling nervously in their television studio chairs, trying to conceal the audacity of their arrogance. For they have something in common besides their anatomy: It’s Hillary Clinton. For nearly two decades, she’s raised more money for more Democrats than anyone except, perhaps, Bill Clinton. She’s certainly done more obligatory “Women-for-(Your Candidate’s Name Here)” events than, say, the Obama girl on YouTube.
Now Clinton’s methodical, dogged history of work for the Democratic Party is treated just like the methodical, dogged histories of so many women in the workplace: Having come this far she must not go too far. She must step aside to take the smaller office, with the lesser title and the lower pay to make room for the younger guy with the thinner résumé. And please, would she just go quietly like a good girl?
Maybe it is true that Clinton has no realistic way to win the nomination. But Obama hasn’t won it either—and contrary to the myth his campaign has spun, Obama can’t win without superdelegates to put him over the top.
Somehow the Obama campaign has come to believe that insulting Clinton is the same as beating her. It isn’t. And insulting her supporters—especially women and, in particular, working-class women, who have clung to her candidacy all these months—isn’t much of a general-election victory strategy. Women were 54 percent of the electorate in the presidential election of 2004. Without their support, Al Gore would not have won the popular vote in 2000 and John Kerry wouldn’t have come so close in 2004. Women voters put Democrats in control of Congress in 2006.
So, the Obama campaign can continue trying to get its allies in the media and various party pooh-bahs to push Clinton aside early. Or Obama can welcome the fight—and win it like a man.
Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.
© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group