The Corner

Re: Hillary Keeps Hope Alive

On that point, in my column today, I humbly suggest that Hillary’s fallback plan is to position herself as the heir apparent in 2012, by being able to argue that she did everything she could save the Democratic Party from itself. From the column:

Perhaps it’s the best route to long-term victory. Washington has long swirled with rumors that the Clintons are holding some “nuclear option” in reserve against Barack Obama. The latest theory is that they’ve decided not to use it, as it would destroy them, too. Who knows what it might be, if it exists at all. But it’s worth noting that if Hillary were the take-no-prisoners brawler everyone says she is, she would almost surely have pushed that button by now.

That she hasn’t used the doomsday device buried under Clinton HQ might mean it doesn’t exist. Or it might mean she’s looking beyond 2008.

In her West Virginia victory speech, Hillary emphasized her electability. Obviously, that’s now her best argument for persuading the superdelegates. But it’s an even better argument for positioning herself as the “I told you so” candidate after an Obama defeat.

Just because the Clintons say something doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Hillary’s claim that she would do better against John McCain in swing states such as West Virginia — no Democrat has captured the White House without winning there since 1916 — is quite plausible. Obama is in danger of being cast as the Michael Dukakis of the 21st century (fairly or not). Polls show that in West Virginia, Obama wins only 53 percent of Democratic primary voters in a matchup against McCain. When only half of the party base is willing to vote for the nominee against a Republican, that nominee and that party have real problems.

If Obama does implode, Hillary’s bitter-end fight would position her to say to Democrats, “You were warned.”

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