There had been rumors from the Clinton camp that things were about to go negative. According to several reports, top aides had been impressed with the impact the negative ads had in Wisconsin reducing their margin of defeat. Such is the state of the Clinton campaign that they are now claiming progress in that they have cut Barrack’s margin of victory from roughly 33% to 17%. Still, by any of the old political standards, anything over 55% of the vote is considered a landslide, and Barrack’s victory in Wisconsin was 58-41. Accordingly, as noted above, he swept all socio-economic categories except white women, and then lost that vote narrowly.
This had placed the Clinton campaign in a conundrum. Take the high road and hope for the best, or take the low road and savage the young Jedi in an effort to bring him down. As one Clinton aide was quoted as saying, “his negatives can only go up”. But to savage him is to risk permanently damaging the man who is now likely to be the Party’s nominee, crippling him for the general election, and saving the Rescumlicans millions of dollars they would otherwise have to expend in the effort. In any case it would look like the last act of desperation.
Hillary, to the surprise of many, did not take the low road. Jabs were exchanged over the alleged plagiarism issue in which she charged Barack with stealing lines from the governor of Massachusetts, a friend and co-chair of his national campaign. Since the governor suggested he use the lines, it hardly qualified as the theft of intellectual property, but such are the straws that are being grasped in order to gain momentary advantage. Finally, at the end, Hillary turned to Barack and concluded her remarks by saying that whatever the outcome she and Barack will be o.k. that they have lives and families, and everything will work out. The question, she said is if the country will be alright, and that worry about America’s future is what motivates them, not personal ambition. Then she turned to Barack and said that she wanted to tell the nation what an honor it is to be on the same stage with him. It was a stellar moment. It may indeed help galvanize support and salvage her chances in the upcoming primaries. It may have been her swan song. It may have earned her a place on the national ticket. Only time will tell but the fearfully anticipated bloodletting, at least momentarily, did not happen.
It did not appear that Hillary had quelled the groundswell building beneath the young Jedi. She is now confronted with the possibility of losing the March 4 Texas primary outright. In fact things on the other side have turned absolutely festive with the news cycle featuring Ted Kennedy serenading in Spanish a crowd at Laredo. A bit hoarse, and his voice cracking under the strain, the old pol was in his element having fun before the faithful as he works to bring yet another constituent part of the party’s coalition into the Obama camp. The work is nearly completed.
Next is Ohio, holding its primary on March 4th, the same day as Texas. There is a debate scheduled between Barack and Hillary next Tuesday and there Hillary will have to defend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed by the previous Clinton administration. Bill fought and won that battle, with his Vice President Al Gore famously taking on Ross Perot on the Larry King Show. The voice of Perot, the master of the sound-bite, can still be heard echoing down the deserted streets of the ‘rust-belt’. “I can hear the sucking sounds now”, said Perot, as high paying industrial jobs leave the country heading south. Clinton and Gore ridiculed Perot calling him a fear monger and a xenophobe. In the aftermath, Ohio has lost well over two hundred thousand such jobs, nearly a quarter of its old industrial base. This presents Hillary with at once peril and opportunity: peril if she simply goes into Ohio and defends NAFTA; opportunity if she were to break with the current policy, take to the ramparts and defend the middle class by breaking with the former Clinton administration and demanding the immediate renegotiation of the treaty. This would demonstrate that she feels the pain of the long-suffering middle class. It would also serve to put some distance between her and Bill in the eyes of the nation, demonstrating that she is not acting as Bill’s surrogate, but is rather seeking to be President in her own right. The latter course of action, requiring as it does political courage, is unlikely and now Hillary, increasingly facing certain defeat in Texas, must bundle up and travel into the frigid north and once again defend her errant husband.