Friday, February 15, 2008

Clinton campaign: trapped in unreality, spouting blind spin

The Clinton campaign seems stuck, with wheels spinning but traction lost. Obama seems to be moving rapidly towards the nomination with the wins over the last weekend. The political momentum is away from Clinton and towards Obama, and the Clinton campaign seems to have no idea what action they can take to change the situation.

The Clinton campaign has responded with strange, unrealistic threats that they will take the nomination based on the decisions of the superdelegates even if Obama gets more regular delegates. This has been a major misstep, one that Josh Marshall blames on Clinton adviser Mark Penn.

How a misstep? Take a look at yesterday's post by Digby. The suggestion from the Clinton campaign that if the regular delegates break towards Obama that the Clinton campaign will take the nomination on the strength of the superdelegates has infuriated a lot of Democrats. That's not a reaction that a campaign that finds itself sliding out of the lead wants from the party members they expect to represent.

Not only has revealing that proposed tactic made the Clinton campaign’s problems worse rather than better, it's also obviously unrealistic. It looks as though the Clinton campaign, having run the campaign for the nomination from the start on the theory that they would simply overwhelm the opposition and roll to victory, has bought into its own fantasy and can’t respond when reality intrudes. Clinton is clearly no longer the inevitable Democratic nominee for President. Are they so trapped inside the beltway bubble that they can’t see that the dynamics have changed? What makes them think that if Obama gets more regular delegates, the Clinton campaign has a lock on the superdelegates?

Nothing forces the superdelegates to vote for Clinton, not even their previous commitments. Superdelegate, Congressional Representative and long-time Civil Rights leader John L. Lewis, who earlier endorsed Clinton, has just announced that he is switching his support to Obama.

As Josh Marshall says, endorsements don’t ordinarily sway votes. But Lewis’ is not just an endorsement. It is also proof that the supposed inevitability of the Clinton nomination is a mirage. Even the old-line Democrats who make up the superdelegates are wavering and Lewis’ announcement gives a lot of other Superdelegates as well as primary voters in Texas and Ohio new freedom to take a second look at the decision between Clinton and Obama. Since the Clinton campaign has been based on the Mark Penn strategy that Clinton is the inevitable nominee, the events of the last few weeks leave Clinton without a viable campaign strategy as well as a clear appearance that they don't know how to react to the Obama surge.

Spin isn't going to get the Clinton campaign any traction. Nor is going negative on Obama, since that feeds into his real strength as a candidate that he is above the nastiness. So Clinton's strategy to run the campaign based on appearing to be the inevitable candidate is gone. Worse, the Clinton people clearly don't know how to respond to the changed circumstance. In fact, their attempts to deal with the new situation gives the appearance that they don't even realize that their circumstances have changed.

It's really looking like the Democrats will nominate Obama for President in Denver this summer, and Clinton is simply gobsmacked. She and her people can't believe it and don't know what to do about it.

Of all the surprises that have occurred during this strange Presidential campaign season, I think this one surprises me most.

So far.

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