With 99% reporting, I think it’s safe to call last night’s primary in PA as an official double digit victory for Hillary Clinton, which the punditocracy was saying she needed to be able to credibly make a case for staying in the race. If you were like me and watched the returns come in for most of the night, for a while it looked like it was going to be around 8 points, but as the night went on, it increased to 10 and has stayed there.
The NYT leads off with an editorial this morning harshly criticizing La Clinton for the way they claim she ran her campaign in the weeks prior to the primary:
The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.
Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.
On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” the narrator intoned.
If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”
By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.
If anything, this editorial proves beyond a shadow of a doubt just how, well, ignorant (deliberately?) the editorial board at the NYT can be sometimes. They’re admitting here, essentially, that they are embarassed that they have endorsed a candidate who will duke it out with every tool in her disposal to win, but unless they were asleep at the wheel in the 1990s when she was First Lady, and haven’t paid any attention to her two terms in the Senate, they had to have known before endorsing her for the Dem nomination for president, and before endorsing her twice in her two Senate runs, just how driven Hillary Clinton is to get what she wants – even more so than her husband, who as we all know was willing to say just about anything to get elected president – and did, twice.
They demonstrate their ignorance even more when they chide Obama for going negative by ‘rising’ to her bait:
Mr. Obama is not blameless when it comes to the negative and vapid nature of this campaign. He is increasingly rising to Mrs. Clinton’s bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher more inclusive form of politics. When she criticized his comments about “bitter” voters, Mr. Obama mocked her as an Annie Oakley wannabe. All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience.
Earth to the NYT: Well before the PA primary, going all the way back to January, Barack Obama has repeatedly used his surrogates to make attacks that he waits days later to “denounce” – a tried and true tactic politicians both Democrat and Republican alike have successfully used over the years when they want to make themselves appear “above the fray” while in actuality they are right in the thick of it. While it’s true Senator Obama’s legislative experience and accomplishments leave a lot to be desired, he is not inexperienced when it comes to knowing and utilizing the tactics he needs to in order to win an election.
Ed Morrisey has video of Hillary responding to the NYT editorial this morning on the Today show, and notes:
It’s almost a pitch-perfect response. She does sound an odd note by blaming Obama for running negative ads after the debate in almost the same breath in which she defends her own advertising as part of the normal electoral process, but her answer to the Gray Lady has the elegance of the obvious. If people keep voting for her more than they do for Obama, why should she stop?
Also, the Clintons are now going to press the “popular vote” argument, which she outlines deftly here. She has surpassed Obama, as Don Surber noted, if Michigan and Florida count — and she tells Lauer that the votes are official, even if Democrats decline to assign delegates based on the results. Team Obama, which sang the “popular vote” song themselves until just recently, may have to start arguing against the popular vote as a deciding factor, and that should be very interesting to watch.
And now, the Democratic race for the nomination makes it’s next two tour stops in my beloved NC (115 delegates, not including supers), and Indiana (72 delegates, not including supers) – both of those primaries are on May 6th. Obama is expected to win in NC, but I expect the Clinton campaign will launch an all-out ad assault and media blitz as well as visit and send surrogates to the state in an attempt to close the gap a bit and make the outcome respectable. I suspect in Indiana, where the poll numbers show the two candidates trading the lead back and forth, with Obama having a “neighboring state” edge, the competition will be even more fierce.
All of which, of course, is good news for the Republican party. The Democrat party is deeply fractured at the moment, and if this thing goes all the way to August, with Hillary desperately trying to seat Florida’s and Michigan’s delegates, that would leave about two months for the Democrats to re-present themselves to the American people as serious contenders before the election – while McCain has had since late February to make his mark and lay out his creds, all the while enjoying the fact that Hillary and Obama have basically done his general election opposition research for him.
All things considered, in a year that was supposed to belong to Democrats – especially considering the strong likelihood that they will increase their majorities in the House and Senate, McCain has been holding steady in national polls which show head to head match-ups with both Clinton and Obama. Right now, the person who is in the driver’s seat is not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but John McCain. If he plays his cards right and continues to wage the positive campaign he’s run since winning the nomination, a well-rested and ready Mc just may have what it takes to win in November over either of the battle-weary candidates, the winner of which will come out of the Democrat National Convention in August bruised and scarred, with not a lot of time to make up for lost ground – especially amongst supporters of the losing primary candidate in his or her own party.
Stay tuned …
Cross-postd to Jules Crittenden’s blog, while he is taking a mini-vaca.