Hillary Clinton is dead woman walking, but won't admit it

Despite her hopeless plight, she refuses to quit

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The Gazette, Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There's an old Newfoundland saying that applies to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign - she's dead but she won't lie down.

She has an opportunity to make a graceful exit following her blowout win in last night's West Virginia primary. More likely, she might well soldier on until the primary season comes to an end in early June.

It doesn't matter. It's over. Barack Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

Obama now has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, popular vote and number of states won. In the last week, he has also overtaken her lead among super delegates, who were her last hope to achieve an unlikely victory on the floor of the Democratic convention.

It takes 2,025 delegates to win the nomination. After last night's votes were counted and delegates distributed on a proportional basis, Obama was within 140 votes of victory, and she was still about 165 votes behind him.

If the Democrats had the Republicans' winner-take-all rules, Clinton pointed out the other day, "I'd already be the nominee."

Yes, and if pigs had wings, then they could fly.

The Clintons are very good at moving the goalposts, and bending logic to suit their case.

The magic number of 2,025 is based entirely on pledged and superdelegates. But for weeks the Clinton campaign has argued that if she could overtake Obama's two-point lead in the popular vote-about 700,000 votes out of more than 31 million cast - then she could claim the moral high ground and make the argument that superdelegates should make her the nominee.

And of course, if you counted the null-and-void primaries in Florida and Michigan, where Obama wasn't even on the ballot, then she would actually be ahead in the popular vote.

Furthermore, Clinton argued last week, the magic number isn't really 2,025, but 2,212, if the Florida and Michigan delegates were seated. But even if that happened, and it won't, her path to the nomination would be incredibly difficult. Neither candidate campaigned in Florida, where she got 50 per cent of the vote to his 33 per cent. Even under that distribution, Obama would receive a third of Florida's 210 disallowed delegates. As for Michigan, there would have to be another vote or a caucus to achieve any fair allocation of its 156 delegates. And in any vote with his name on the ballot, Obama would sweep Detroit, with its important black population, and the big university towns of Lansing and Ann Arbor, home of Michigan State and Michigan universities.

Even if the goalposts were moved, as Clinton has suggested, the only result would be to push Obama across the goal line.

And then there's the money. There's always the money. The Clinton campaign is worse than broke. It is $25 million in debt. The Clintons themselves have loaned the campaign $11 million, with the remainder owed to consultants and suppliers. At some point, you can't put a Boeing 757 charter in the air unless the airline gets paid. Obama, on the other hand, has $50 million cash on hand, and no debt.

One of the reasons for her to stay in is to raise enough money to pay down her debt. But staying in costs a lot of money every day. At some point, as in any business, the question becomes when do you stop throwing good money after bad?

Then why doesn't she see it? Why doesn't Bill Clinton see it? Well, they are not quitters. Indeed, she has struck a populist note as the tribune of women and blue-collar, white voters. Economists and pundits universally panned her proposal of a federal gas-tax holiday as a dumb idea. But she said she knew truck drivers would appreciate it.

And while her campaign has been fatally flawed, the candidate has proven she is tournament tough, with no quit in her. Furthermore, no one can tell a leadership candidate when to get out of a race. She has to come through all the stages of grief. But at some point she has to recognize that for the good of the Clinton brand, her husband's as well as her own, this needs to be over. Then there's the well-being of the party, in addition to her own.

There's a point where doomed campaigns start quoting Yogi Berra, that "it ain't over 'til it's over." That's usually when it's over.

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