Hillarina concedes, throws support behind Barry O.

After a several months long brutal primary battle, and two days after their super secret meeting at Dianne Feinstein’s home in DC, Hillary Clinton finally made it official yesterday that she is conceding the race for the Dem presidential nomination, and throwing her support behind Barack Obama:

Hillary Rodham Clinton suspended her pioneering campaign for the presidency on Saturday and summoned supporters to use “our energy, our passion, our strength” to put Barack Obama in the White House.

“I endorse him and throw my full support behind him,” said the former first lady, delivering the strong affirmation that her one-time rival and other Democratic leaders hoped to hear after a bruising campaign.

Amid tears from her supporters, Clinton issued a call for unity that emphasized the cultural and political milestones that she and Obama, the first black to secure a presidential nomination, represent.

“Children today will grow up taking for granted that an African-American or a woman can, yes, become the president of the United States,” she said.

For Clinton and her backers, it was a poignant moment, the end of an extraordinary run that began with an air of inevitability and certain victory. About 18 million people voted for her; it was the closest a woman has come to capturing a nomination.

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before,” she said in a speech before cheering supporters packed into the ornate National Building Museum, not far from the White House she longed to occupy again, as president this time.

Here’s a lengthy clip from her speech:

Obama’s response:

Obviously, I am thrilled and honored to have Senator Clinton’s support. But more than that, I honor her today for the valiant and historic campaign she has run. She shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere, who now know that there are no limits to their dreams. And she inspired millions with her strength, courage and unyielding commitment to the cause of working Americans. Our party and our country are stronger because of the work she has done throughout her life, and I’m a better candidate for having had the privilege of competing with her in this campaign. No one knows better than Senator Clinton how desperately America and the American people need change, and I know she will continue to be in the forefront of that battle this fall and for years to come.

Personally, my favorite response to all this came from the GOP, who are now highlighting past statements from prominent Democrats – including Hillary Clinton – that were critical and/or questioning of Obama’s readiness to be president. They’ve also released this video, titled “Democrats vs. Obama”:

Love it.

Lots of people are weighing in on Hillary’s concession today, but probably the funniest one is from senior Hillary advisor Mark Penn, who proclaimed in an opinion piece in today’s NYT that the problem with Hillary’s campaign wasn’t the message, it was the money. Would someone buy this guy a box of Kleenex and call the Wahmbulance, please? If money was such an issue, how did Hillary win in OH and PA, in places were BO outspent her somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 to 6-1?

I’m not so sure the message was the problem either, as there is not a lot of difference in either Obama’s or Hillary’s platform, outside of healthcare. The biggest problem, I believe, came from those advising her in a senior capacity, those, well – like Mark Penn. From an early May article in Time magazine:

As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state’s 370 delegates. It sounded smart, but as every high school civics student now knows, Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Sitting nearby, veteran Democratic insider Harold M. Ickes, who had helped write those rules, was horrified — and let Penn know it. “How can it possibly be,” Ickes asked, “that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn’t understand proportional allocation?” And yet the strategy remained the same, with the campaign making its bet on big-state victories.

Not only that, but as that same article points out, Hillary really had no caucus strategy and this killed her as Obama won nearly every caucus state:

While Clinton based her strategy on the big contests, she seemed to virtually overlook states like Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas, which choose their delegates through caucuses. She had a reason: the Clintons decided, says an adviser, that “caucus states were not really their thing.” Her core supporters — women, the elderly, those with blue-collar jobs — were less likely to be able to commit an evening of the week, as the process requires. But it was a little like unilateral disarmament in states worth 12% of the pledged delegates. Indeed, it was in the caucus states that Obama piled up his lead among pledged delegates. “For all the talent and the money they had over there,” says [Obama’s chief strategist David] Axelrod, “they — bewilderingly — seemed to have little understanding for the caucuses and how important they would become.”

Having a coherent, effective caucus strategy alone could have turned this thing around for Team Clinton. Instead, they chose to focus on the big primary states, and to characterize the caucus system as “unfair.”

All that is water under the bridge now, obviously, as Hillary has pledged to throw her “strong” support behind Senator Obama’s campaign. Don’t look for the Bubbinski to join, however – I heard on several news outlets last week that the Obama campaign did not reach out to Bill Clinton in addition to Hillary Clinton because they view him as a venomous poison pill who acted irrationally during the campaign.

So where do we stand now? The WaPo reports that each candidate is preparing a ground game to target each other’s traditional strongholds:

The 2008 general election will pit the best-organized nomination campaign in the history of modern Democratic politics against the battle-tested machinery of the Republican Party, with both Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) determined to shake up an electoral map that has been virtually static over the past two elections.

Democrats enjoy a highly favorable electoral climate at this start of the general election, created by gloomy attitudes about the state of the country and economy, President Bush’s low approval ratings and negative perceptions of the GOP. But as Obama shifts his attention from his primary victory over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) to his test against McCain, the electoral map nonetheless foreshadows another highly competitive race in November.

McCain and Obama offer a rare combination of nominees able to poach on the other party’s turf. Both have proven appeal to independents. McCain will target disgruntled Clinton supporters; Obama will target disaffected Republicans. Women, Latinos and, especially, white working-class voters will find themselves courted intensely by the two campaigns.

On issues, the differences are stark, beginning with views on Iraq but also including the economy, now the dominant issue in virtually every region of the country.

Officials from both campaigns confidently predict that they will steal states that have been in the other party’s column in recent elections, and an early analysis suggests there will be new battlegrounds added to the map this year, with Virginia, Colorado and Nevada among them. The Midwest remains the most concentrated competitive region of the country, but advisers to McCain and Obama agree that the election could turn on the outcome of contests in the Rocky Mountain States and the South.

Translation: Obama will be tacking right, while McCain will be touting his “centrist” credentials, which will irritate the hell out of conservatives, including yours truly.

In case the thought of McCain’s “centrist” campaign has left you cold and even more hardened against voting for him in November, Thomas Sowell, who has been a big critic of McCain’s candidacy from day one, lays out the case (h/t: ST reader GWR) for why the differences conservatives have with him should be put aside in November, and sums his piece up with this:

At a time like this, we do not have the luxury of waiting for our ideal candidate or of indulging our emotions by voting for some third party candidate to show our displeasure — at the cost of putting someone in the White House who is not up to the job.

Senator John McCain has been criticized in this column many times. But, when all is said and done, Senator McCain has not spent decades aiding and abetting people who hate America.

On the contrary, he has paid a huge price for resisting our enemies, even when they held him prisoner and tortured him. The choice between him and Barack Obama should be a no-brainer.


Cross-posted to Right Wing News, where I am helping guestblog for John Hawkins on Sundays.

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