Reading the Tea Leaves

Posted: Aug 11, 2008 5:23 PM
Hillary Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson, has said that believes that John Edwards' presence in the race cost Hillary the nomination.  If Edwards hadn't been in the race, Hillary would have won Iowa, he insists, and rolled on to secure the nomination.

This is revealing, for two reasons.

First, keep in mind that Wolfson is one of Hillary's top guys.  He's a loyal-soldier type, not known for going off the reservation.  As her communications director -- someone who talks to the press for a living -- he spoke on the record, and he certainly understands exactly the impact his statement is going to have.   It's going to exacerbate tensions between Obama and Clinton supporters. 

The subtext of all of this comes down to the fact that, no matter how many times she publicly exhorts her supporters to vote for Barack, the Clintons clearly hope he isn't going to win -- and are more than willing to do what they can to defeat him, as long as it can't be traced directly back to them.  Having her spokesman fan the flames gives the statement authenticity, along with sufficient deniability.  Perfect.

Second, there's a pretty interesting assumption in Wolfson's charge -- one that's profoundly insulting to Edwards supporters.  He presumes that all the voters who voted for Edwards would have voted for Hillary had Edwards not been there.  But you can only make that assumption if you believe that Edwards voters were people who obviously didn't want Hillary (and maybe were looking for "change"), but who wouldn't support the other "change agent," Barack Obama, no matter what.  Hm.  Why could that be? Race, perhaps?  (Why, with so many Dems, does it always come down to race?!)

As the linked piece delicately puts it, "Wolfson's contention is not shared by the Obama campaign, whose officials never bought the argument that Clinton was the second choice of Edwards voters."  I bet.

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