Wednesday’s Democratic debate forced Hillary Clinton into yet another lie. No, this wasn’t one of her serial exaggerations about her time in the White House. Nor was it a deceptive answer about the scandals that seemed to occupy so much of her time there. In fact, I doubt anyone in the media will challenge the veracity of this particular statement.
When George Stephanopoulos pressed Hillary on whether she thought Barack Obama could win in November she responded “Yes. Yes. Yes.” Now it may be that Hillary felt she had to give that answer or face even more backlash from Democrats who feel her continued attacks on Obama are a huge gift to the presumptive GOP nominee John McCain. It may be that she is being a good partisan by refusing to say that Obama can’t win out loud in such a prominent forum.
But does anyone really think Hillary believes this? Her answer undercut her arguments that night and, in fact, the very rationale for her continuing campaign.
Barring a miracle Hillary won’t catch Obama in pledged delegates. She has slight chance to overtake him in the popular vote depending how the remaining primaries play out and the votes in Michigan and Florida are counted. But the most likely outcome is that Obama will have a slight lead in both at the end of the primary process.
So there are two scenarios by which she might win the nomination. Obama could crash and burn in some spectacular fashion; through a fatal scandal or gaffe. Or Hillary can convince the super delegates that will be forced to decide the nomination that she is the only candidate prepared to face the Republicans in the general election.
Given the dynamics of the Democratic Party, and the race to date, it is highly unlikely that these super delegates would hand the nomination to Hillary just because they think she has a slight advantage over Obama in a general election match-up. They are not going to risk the backlash among the African American community and the diehard activists that would result if Obama won more delegates and more votes and yet lost the nomination.
No, the only reason the super delegates would intervene to “over-rule the voters” is for the reason they were created in the first place: if they thought the leading candidate was unelectable. Given the highly favorable political environment the Democrats enjoy this cycle that argument would have to be particularly compelling. Hillary needs more than claims about having been vetted or having already faced the “GOP attack machine.”
And in fact, Hillary’s answers through the debate made this clear. She used every opportunity to focus the discussion on Obama’s connections to former Weather Underground bomber William Ayers, to Reverend Wright’s inflammatory statements, and to Obama’s offensive statements about Middle Americans being forced to cling to their religion and guns out of bitterness about the loss of jobs.
She was quick to note that this was not because she wanted to attack Obama personally but because those dastardly Republicans would do it in the general election campaign. Hillary was explicitly arguing that she had come through this brutal process before and lived to fight another day. The implication was clear: Obama isn’t ready.
There are only two possible explanations for Hillary’s continued campaign. Either she honestly believes that Obama winning the nomination would mean electoral defeat come November or she is willing to rip apart her own party and contribute to its defeat as long as their remains a chance she can return to the White House.
So she is either lying about Obama’s electability or about her dedication to the party winning in November. Of course, the answer might be both and that has to worry Democrats.
Somewhere John McCain is smiling.