Just because the Clintons say something doesn't mean it's untrue. Hillary's claim that she would do better against John McCain in swing states such as West Virginia - no Democrat has captured the White House without winning there since 1916 - is quite plausible. Obama is in danger of being cast as the Michael Dukakis of the 21st century (fairly or not). Polls show that in West Virginia, Obama wins only 53 percent of Democratic primary voters in a matchup against McCain. When only half of the party base is willing to vote for the nominee against a Republican, that nominee and that party have real problems.
If Obama does implode, Hillary's bitter-end fight would position her to say to Democrats, "You were warned."
Obviously, she wants to win this year. But the conventional wisdom that she's hurting herself within the party by not bowing out gracefully might be flawed. Polls show that Democratic voters want the race to continue. And so long as she can avoid blame for Obama's loss, she'll be in great shape for 2012. She will be able to argue that Democrats must think with their heads, not their hearts, if they want to win the presidency and change the country. Her centrism would no longer seem calculated. And, of course, the identity-politics bean counters will argue that, this time, it really is a woman's turn.
Hillary will do all she can to appear supportive of Obama should he get the nomination. But appearances can be deceiving. Clinton biographer Carl Bernstein recently reported on the Huffington Post that Sidney Blumenthal, the Clintons' preferred smear artist and rumor spreader, has been pushing the press to cover Obama's ties to Bill Ayers, an alum of the left-wing terrorist group the Weather Underground, as well as "many other questionable allegations about Obama."
The real test of my theory will be whether the Blumenthal operation shuts down after the Clinton campaign does.