The Next Election

27Aug08

Hillary played it beautifully last night – she did everything she could for Barack. As a result, Barack suffers. This was the delightful situation in which she found herself.

…last night she hit all the right notes, delivering a speech remarkably free of any sense of defeat, self-pity or what-might-have-beens. She thanked the 18 million Americans who supported her in the primaries, but then all but commanded them to put aside their displeasure with the outcome and get behind the Illinois senator as he leads the party into battle.

She couldn’t do anything overt to sabotage Barack, or she would have likewise sabotaged her own presidential future.

…unlike many past losing candidates in both parties – notably Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1976, Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1980, Sen. Gary Hart in 1984 – she performed last night in a way that will make it difficult for anyone to blame her if the nominee loses in the fall.

By being poised, professional and graceful, she highlighted Barack’s beginner status, and ignited nostalgia in supporters who hadn’t even been missing her. Professionalism and experience are awfully nice qualities for a leader to have when you’re going into battle.

Clinton’s target was that 53 percent of her supporters thus far resistant to Obama’s appeal. In the speech, she challenged them to rise above personal pique and focus on the greater good that could be done by an Obama presidency.

No one knows how those voters will react. But Obama should know that the burden now shifts to him. If he wants these voters, he has to win them over. Clinton can’t do it for him.

There lies the irony. Everyone was looking for Hillary to give a great, rousing endorsement of Barack, as if that would then deliver her supporters. But she can’t control her supporters. The best she good do was not try to tear them away, to not overtly attempt to instigate a movement against him.

By doing her part to help Barack, she may, in fact, have hurt him still… reminding Democrats of just how silly it was to fall for Hope, and leaving viewers with the clear image of an experienced performer against which to compare Barack.

Last night, Hillary did what any smart politician would do. When given a forum, they’re using it to benefit their next campaign. Think of last night as Hillary’s announcement speech for 2012, when she will seek to unseat John McCain.

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