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Clinton Draws Party Anger: Is Hillary Playing Fair?

By January 16, 2008

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"Is Hillary Clinton breaking her pledge not to campaign in Florida?" asks a Miami Herald-owned newspaper on January 16, 2008. The Herald explains:
" The dispute turns on the decision by the major Democratic candidates not to campaign in Florida until after its Jan. 29 primary. Pressure for the boycott came from four smaller states approved by the national party to hold the earliest contests. Under the pledge, the candidates can't appear in public or advertise in Florida, but they can raise money privately."

Per the newspaper, Hillary Clinton may be planning to ignore her pledge to support that Democratic party edict.

" ... the Clinton campaign inquired Tuesday if the Miami Beach Convention Center will be available for a 'rally' on Jan. 27, two days before the state holds its earliest primary in history...

"The Clinton campaign denied that she is planning to address a 'large venue' in Florida, though a spokesman confirmed she will attend two private fundraisers that day... "

This revelation of questionable Clinton campaign plans comes on the heels of the Michigan primary last night, January 15, for which the leading Democratic candidates agreed to withdraw their names in support of the party request to honor the sanctioned primary schedule.

Funny thing, though. While Obama and Edwards promptly pulled their names from the Michigan ballot, the Clinton campaign ignored that party pact, too. As About.com Conservatives guide Susan Heathfield embarrassingly but accurately reported:

" Oh, yes, the cheating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton came in first in the Democratic Primary running against 'Uncommitted' and several mostly unknown candidates. Yeah."

Red-State Democratic Leaders, Liberal Bloggers Balk at Clinton Tactics
" ...seems to me that the most dangerous place to be... is between the Clintons and an elected office." observed Matt Bai, author and New York Times reporter, this week.

Since the New Hampshire primary, I can see Mr. Bai's point. And so, apparently, can Democratic leaders in red-state America who are suddenly jumping on the Obama bankwagon in droves. (See Obama Gets The Top-Tier Endorsements But Do They Matter?.)

In January 15, 2008 Politico.com article Red-state Dems Sour on Clinton, reporters Josh Kraushaar and John Harris write:

"During extensive interviews in recent weeks in Republican-leaning states, Politico found widespread belief among current and former Democratic statewide officials that Obama is the more electable candidate with their electorates.

"These politicians also frequently registered a fear that Clinton’s personality and past history make her too polarizing to win independent and Republican-leaning voters... Most of Clinton’s Democratic skeptics did not attribute her problems to her gender... "

It's not just red-state Democrats shying away from the divisive Clinton political machine. Many in the liberal blogosphere are likewise exasperated and repelled by "despicable" Clinton campaign tactics. Take gander at just a handful of the blistering comments:

  • From Dean Barker at Blue Hampshire: "I'm really losing my patience with Hillary Clinton. And I've decided to stop calling the pattern of low-ball attacks as coming from 'Team Clinton.' The campaign buck stops with the candidate."

  • From AMERICABlog's John Aravosis: "I have a hard time watching the Clinton folks beat the crap out of Obama with personal attacks, then deny it...I'm really astounded that the Clinton people are interested in dredging up dirty laundry about Obama because there's an awful lot of dirty laundry to go around, some of it fresh."

  • From The New Republic's Noam Scheiber: "On Friday I said that, if you were cynical, you could argue that the Clintons have an interest in polarizing the nomination fight along racial lines -- the idea being that, even if it hurts them in the short-term (with African Americans in South Carolina), Obama can't win if he becomes the 'black candidate,' which is what racial polarization accomplishes. Well, I no longer think you have to be cynical to make that argument. This is just despicable stuff."

  • From Todd Beeton at MyDD: "Either the Clinton campaign thinks Hillary Clinton can continue to distance herself from pathetic dog whistle attacks on Obama by her surrogates, or her surrogates really are severely lacking in message discipline. Whichever is the case, neither speaks terribly highly of the Clinton campaign."

But What If It Works to Win the Democratic Nomination?
My question isn't why the end-justifies-the-means Clinton campaign is engaging in such scummy, low-rent tactics, or even, will the tactics work?

Fact is... this is politics, and frankly, the tactics MIGHT work to give Hillary Clinton just enough edge to win the popular vote for the Democratic 2008 presidential nomination.

My question is this: what then, if Hillary Clinton does win the party nomination?

From her already high negative ratings with independents and Republicans, to her campaign's very polarizing strategies... well-timed tears, girlie moments and planted questions to repeated race-baiting and ugly snarking by supporters and "cheating" by ignoring party unifying pacts... the question naturally arises: Can Hillary Clinton possibly still win the general election in November 2008?

Red-state Democratic governors and U.S. senators seem to say NO.

And it's fantasy to think that somehow, magically, once Sen. Clinton has won the nomination, that all will be forgiven, and all people... moderates, under 35s, men... who supported the other Democratic candidates will blissfully coalesce to lift the Clintons up back into the White House.

I hope not, but I fear that things may have already gone too far...

And "cheating" and "breaking" unifying party pledges in Michigan and Florida could be the last divisive straw for her general election chances.

(Photo taken on Jan 15, 2008 at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Related Reading
Obama Gets The Top-Tier Endorsements, But Do They Matter?
What's Next after Seniors, Older White Women Lift Clinton to N.H. Victory?
CBS News, Jan 16, 2008: Red-State Dems Sour On Clinton by Politico.com


January 16, 2008 at 7:24 pm
(1) Sasha in MN says:

She’s learned a lot from her 35 years experience and punching below the belt is something she seems to have an affinity for.

January 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm
(2) hettie says:

You so-called liberals better stop treating the consrvative Obama with kid gloves. If he should happen (I don’t think he will) win the nomination, the Republicans sure won’t baby him the way you all do. You apparently think it is okay for him to bad mouth the Clintons but she can’t tell the truth about him which is that he was a lawyer for a slum landlord who just got indicted by Patrick Fitzgerald. I think the voter should know this about Obama.

January 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm
(3) Garland says:

Hillary has disgraced the Democratic Party in the Eyes of Black America and she will not be forgiven. No democrat can win without a heavy Black vote and she has no chance of that. She and bill are every bit as hated as George Bush and the Democrats will suffer nationwide in November from the low Black Turnout if Hillary is the Nominee. If she is allowed to continue her scorched earth attack on Obama she will completely end the black Allegiance to the Democrats. Actually, its already too late and thats probably a good thing.If John MCcain is smart, he will donate to Hillary’s Campaign. I am an African America Political Analyst and the conversation in the Black Community is not whether she is hated, but just how much…as in more or less than George Bush.

January 31, 2008 at 8:33 pm
(4) Nick says:

Nicely written, Ms. White, and I appreciate the links.

I agree substantially, and would carry your speculation one step further. Let’s say that somehow Hillary as the nominee could re-load enough support in time to win the general election.

She and Bill are such polarizing figures, with such blunt-edged political instruments, and so out of favor with even their own party’s movers, that they would accomplish very litte during such a term.

The problem, in short, is that lack of political capital + shortage of political finesse = legislative impasse.

Hillarycare is the model for what the entire term would be.

It would be as bad as W.’s lame duck period.

Obama has been making this point subtly. I think it’s time that he make it even more forcefully.


February 15, 2008 at 8:38 am
(5) Patty says:

Hillary is playing fair, but Obama and Oprah are not. Oprah is controlling all the negative media that attacks Hillary at every chance they get, but everything with Obama is nicey nice. Obama is now “plagarizing” Hillary’s comments and ideas. This should be front page on CNN, but again Oprah is controlling that giving CNN all that ad money for Obama’s ads on their channel. Go HILLARY! If Hillary gets cheated out of this—-her supporters will vote McCain!

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