When Does Hillary's Leverage Run Out?

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: May 13, 2008 3:50 PM

An open question to my fellow bloggers...

Obviously, she's been considerably bolstered in her dream to plow on by the revelation that fully 67 percent of Democratic voters wish her to plow on. Even among Obama voters, the number's in the 40s. Talk about some validation. I'm particularly amused by the fact that the American electorate continues to mystify the Washington punditry and media by not acting in the manner pundits prescribe for the Democratic Party. It mystifies Beltway types so much, in fact, that the defiance of Democratic voters is the lede in this story:
Pushing back against political punditry, more than six in 10 Democrats say there's no rush for Hillary Clinton to leave the presidential race – even as Barack Obama consolidates his support for the nomination and scores solidly in general-election tests.
"Why aren't they listening to us???" the media asks overtly and a little pathetically in this story.

The media turned the fire hose of negative commentary on Hillary post-Indiana and -N.C., as predicted, partly because they knew she'd fare well in Kentucky and particularly West, by God, Virginia, thereby extending the justification for her Veritably Mathematically Impossible, by God, Campaign. They hoped to make their criticisms, get the supers 'rats jumping off the ship, so to speak, and that the combination would impress upon her the need to leave the race.

Her plaudits for dropping out, from both the media and Obama, would have been great indeed had she done it pre-West Virginia, but the costs to her outweighed the benefits. Why quit while you're sorta-kinda ahead (in the ridiculous parlance of this ridiculous campaign, that is) for a couple days?

Now, she'll whoop up in W.V. and likely in Kentucky next week (she's leading by 25 percent), and her argument for her "broad coalition" will limp along despite the fact that Obama's superdelegate count is rising faster than the thrill up Chris Matthews' leg.

She'll lose in Oregon, which has 52 delegates to give, and she's trailing in South Dakota (June 3), but she's likely to take Montana and Puerto Rico, and she's leading her states by larger margins than Obama leads his.

Given how far she's come and the fact that there are only 21 days left until the end of primaries, period, at what point do the benefits of dropping out outweigh the benefits of staying in, and how's the Obama campaign gonna make it worth her while? Add to the scales the fact that Democratic voters are pretty pumped about getting to have a say in this process, and the people of the remaining few primary states would be disproportionately ticked by having their chances revoked at the very end of this improbable process, and you've got a very delicate situation. (Don't you love the way the Democrats devised this system?)

We're dealing with a pretty small window, here, in which she'll bolster her standing with a couple strong wins and he'll continue to scrape away at superdelegates, bolstering his own.

Perhaps Clinton just continues to rock on until June 3rd, then using the dual bargaining power of being both a potentially destructive annoyance to the party throughout the summer and the idea that the party owes her for having energized new voters and for her potential to keep blue-collar types within the ranks.

Does she settle on one of these bargaining chips-- either the diligent party servant or the dangerous candidate scorned? I think we all know which might suit her better.

And, at what point is her bargaining power greatest? Does she ever lose her leverage, or are the Clintons so powerful that regardless of her behavior, she's guaranteed a pay-out or a position at the end of all this? Thoughts, guys? The clock is a-tickin' on this thing. Just thinking out loud.