The Corner

Hillary’s Rudy Strategy and the Possibility of Disaster for the Democrats

With primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and with a primary next Tuesday in Wisconsin, there are a lot of places Hillary Clinton could be tonight.  So where will she be?  In El Paso, Texas, for a “Solutions for America” rally.  And where will she be tomorrow?  In McAllen, Robstown, and San Antonio, for more rallies ahead of the March 4 Texas primary.  It’s more evidence that Sen. Clinton is going to bet everything on stopping Obama in what her spokesman Howard Wolfson yesterday called “the all-important states of Texas and Ohio.”  To some observers, the Texas/Ohio strategy bears a resemblance to Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous Florida strategy – at the very least, it’s not the product of a winning, confident campaign.  So yesterday, on a conference call with reporters, Wolfson was ready with an answer when he was asked whether Sen. Clinton is going down the same path as Giuliani.

“The key difference is, I’m not aware that Rudy Giuliani won California and New York and Oklahoma and Tennessee and Arkansas and Arizona and New Mexico prior to the Florida primary,” Wolfson said.  “Those are all states that we won on Super Tuesday.  We won New Jersey and Massachusetts as well.  We also won Nevada and Florida and Michigan and New Hampshire.  So Sen. Clinton has a long track record within the last several months of winning key contested states….There is no reason to believe that we will not continue to be successful in the all-important states of Texas and Ohio, based on the track record so far.”

Maybe so.  But with Obama’s big-margin wins from the weekend, with three more wins likely coming today, and another next week in Wisconsin, Hillary’s perceived advantage in Texas and Ohio could fall victim to the momentum of the race just as Giuliani’s did in Florida.  The more contests Obama wins, the more he seems like…a winner.  And if the delegate race remains extremely close, voters are not going to see Sen. Clinton as the co-leader – they’re going to question a system under which one guy wins primary after primary and the delegate totals stay in a virtual tie.  The Democratic system of proportional winnings in primaries, and especially the existence of 796 superdelegates – party officials who are not bound to vote in accordance with the voters’ will – will come under intense questioning.

The questioning will be particularly intense among black Democrats.  A few days ago, I asked an experienced Democratic strategist this question: Given everything that has happened in the campaign so far, is there any foreseeable scenario under which Hillary Clinton wins the nomination and black Democrats say, ‘Well, Obama ran a good race, but she won it fair and square’”?  The strategist said, no, there is no such scenario.  The damage has already been done, and if Obama is defeated by the votes of superdelegates loyal to the Clintons, Democrats will be a party plagued by divisions far more serious than anything Republicans are experiencing now.

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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