Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On momentum and ambition, or Yikes! Politics!

I was talking with a co-worker today about the state of the primary race for the major party nominations for the presidential election here in the U.S. He and I are of similar political bent (pretty strongly Democratic), both support the same candidate (Obama), and our conversation quickly turned to the fate of Hillary Clinton, especially in light of the stunning 0-for-10 streak she's on, now that Obama pretty handily beat her in Wisonsin and Hawaii on Tuesday.

Momentum is a huge factor in the American presidential nomination process, and by any definition, Obama has decisively grabbed the momentum in the Democratic race from the establishment candidate and former heavy favorite. Losing streaks of this magnitude have killed off many a campaign in the past, and my co-worker wondered aloud for how long Hillary was going to hang in the race.

And I realized something then: Hillary can't quit. This is her one shot to be president: she just turned 61 in October; if she loses the nomination to Obama, with the better-than-average odds of him beating McCain in the general election in November, she's looking at another eight years before she can realistically run again. That would make her 69 - only three years younger than John McCain now, roughly the same age as Reagan when he was elected. But, here's the thing: those were men. The political calculus, even in this year when history will be made with whomever is the eventual Democratic nominee, I think is pretty clear: this country just ain't ready for Grandma President. Margaret Thatcher, Hillary ain't.

So, Hillary's in this to the end. If she picks up Texas or Ohio on March 4th - or both - she's mathematically back in this thing, and the possibility of a brokered convention becomes more likely. And, let's be honest here: if it comes down to a brokered convention, I'm not betting against the Clinton machine. But even if she loses both Texas and Ohio, I just don't think she bows out. Because of the way the Democratic party apportions delegates from primaries and caucuses, there's an entirely good chance that we won't have a nominee secured until the very last primary vote has been cast. If there's even the remotest hint of a possibility of a chance that she could somehow pull it out, Hillary will stay in it.

This is her one - her only - shot. Her ambition won't let her do anything else.

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