Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Leave the gun take the cannoli.

A political hit was applied today. In a perverse way it was a thing of beauty. Looking at from a distance one could almost admire the clinical savagery of the event. In the staring role of Luca Brazi (or was it Tessio?) was John Prince Edwards. Simply put Hillary Clinton got politically whacked today.

While some may disagree it was, for all intents, a mercy killing. Clinton had been riding on fumes for quite a long time. She got gut-shot by her own man Mark Penn in February and was never quite the same. She managed a victory of sorts in Texas and pulled two successive rabbits out of her hat in Ohio and Pennsylvania. But all the while she could not recoup the losses of her cruelest month; Barack ran away with all the chocolates on Valentines Month.

Trooper that she was, she rallied onward to North Carolina and even looked like a contender. Then the sky fell on her and she got crushed in the Tar Heal state. Worse yet, her Hoosier victory was much less than meets the eye. In the final results she did not even manage a percentage point of separation between her and Obama. Not a standout performance for a woman who was polling 5% more just the day before. Still she soldiered on. She went to West Virginia and embarrassed the golden child by a huge margin. Party Elders and others tried to suggest she toss in the towel by May 20. She ignored them.

Team Obama tried some gentle persuasion with a few Super Delegates defections. To give an extra nudge, some were her former Super Delegates. She ignored them too. Finally Team Obama pulled out the Mother of All Super Delegates, former Senator and former candidate John Prince Edwards.
Make no mistake about it Edwards was the proper hitman for the job. First, his endorsement only added fuel to an already raging Hillary-go-home fire. The chattering classes will be going absolutely bananas over this. They were already digging Hillary’s grave- Edwards’ endorsement provided them with a backhoe. Second, Edwards’ was a dagger in Clinton’s blue-collar heart. Hillary, the blue-collar mama got trumped by the real working-class hero in the race. As good a Hillary got with her working class mantra, she was still a pale copy of Edwards’ message. Edwards’ was the man who first gave voice to working-class concerns. Edwards was the most progressive of the top tier Democrats; it was his populism that both Clinton and Obama reacted to and finally co-opted.

Clinton especially reconfigured herself to Edwards’ talking points. At Yearly Kos she flaunted her connections with lobbyists; a few months later she was excoriating big pharma, big oil, and other corporate nere-do-wells. She grasped the lunch bucket crowed in both arms and did not let go. These were the guys and gals who were left in the lurch when Edwards departed the race. These were Edwards’ target audience. Obama got the Edwards’ activists; Clinton got the Edwards’ rank and file.
But Barry changed all that on May 14, 2008. He snatched the only strong pillar supporting the house of Clinton. Clintonistas have been hammering away about the lunch bucket set; they have been hammering away about Barry’s weakness with Regan Democrats. The message has been sent- we have Edwards now; we might not need the Clintons at all to get the lunch bucket set.

The threat to Clinton is undeniable. The political math is inescapable. There is neither hope nor joy in Clintonville tonight. With Oregon in the bag and Kentucky now rendered moot, Clinton has no message to sway the Super Delegates. With Edwards in the Obama camp no Super Delegate is going to pay Clinton any mind. They will be polite and nod their heads to her; but the message is going to go in one ear and out the other. 

Now we understand why Barack was talking past Clinton in last week. Now we understand why Barack was concentrating on McCain whist Hillary was concentrating on West Virginia. The contract on Hillary was already out. John Edwards was already set up to do the deed. The only question was timing. The hit was done in a respectful interval after the North Carolina vote. This was nothing short of brilliant. If Edwards had endorsed before the North Carolina vote there could have been blow-back from Clinton supporters and undecideds. Hillary had always done better when people think she is getting a raw deal. It is important to pile on her in way that does not actually look like piling on. Team Obama played the gap perfectly. They took any air that was left out of the West Virginia win. They also totally queered the Kentucky polls and made May 20th a hard and fast deadline.

Forget Michigan, forget Florida, forget vote totals; team Clinton has no justification of running past the 20th – none at all. She can no longer win the nomination; all she can do now is ensure that Barack looses. She will either concede to Obama or hand the nomination over to Al Gore. If you thought her negatives were high in 2008, just think of what they would be after spiking the nomination for the first black candidate in U.S. history. If she does that; she will never be able to run for president again; she might not even get reelected Senator of New York.

This is no longer about who is the “real” best candidate in November. Like it or not Barack Obama has now closed the sale. Obama is the nominee. It was an operation that Michael Corleone would be proud of.
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