Even Clinton Supporters Now Believe She Looks Desperate

While the blogosphere is now treating Hillary Clinton in much the same way that Democrats have previously treated Richard Nixon and George Bush (and the way in which Republicans have long treated both Clintons), Hillary Clinton’s campaign continues to push on Florida and Michigan. The Clinton campaign is increasingly showing their unwillingness to compromise. The expectation outside of Michigan has been that the uncommitted delegates would go to Obama, but there have been Clinton supporters in Michigan who thought these should remain officially uncommitted as they hoped to pack the delegation with additional Clinton supporters. Harold Ickes is now taking this approach:

In a conference call with reporters, Clinton Senior Adviser Harold Ickes clarified their position on Michigan — they don’t want the 55 “uncommitted” delegates to go to Obama (his name did not appear on the ballot in Michigan). There have been reports that some of the uncommitted delegates in Michigan already selected are union supporters of Clinton. This solution, unsurprisingly, would make it much harder for Obama to clinch a pledged delegate majority.

This would be the ideal situation for Clinton. Clinton would receive the delegates from those who voted for her as well as those who voted for uncommitted, presumably because they opposed Clinton. Votes written in for other candidates such as Obama weren’t even counted. Hillary Clinton might have had a little difficulty answering the gotcha question at one of the debates on the last Russian election, but she seems to have gone to the same school on managing elections as Putin.

Even some Clinton supporters believe that she is going too far. Harold Patterson now sees “desperation.”

While he stressed that he continues to support Clinton and will do so until “she makes a different determination,” Paterson, a superdelegate, said he doesn’t believe the DNC should change the rules after the fact on Florida and Michigan and added that he’s not buying her claims about leading the popular vote if the ballots cast in those states were counted.

“I would say at this point we’re starting to see a little desperation on the part of the woman who I support and I’ll support until whatever time she makes a different determination,” Paterson said, adding: “I thought she was the best candidate and I thought she had the best chance of winning.”

Paterson, who is a DNC committee member and was present at the meeting when a vote was taken to penalize Florida and Michigan for moving their respective primaries ahead of the traditional starting contests in New Hampshire and Iowa, said he thought that decision was “a little unfair” and he “didn’t agree with it at the time.”

But he also noted “nobody was screaming” after that decision was made, although some people were unhappy with it, adding:

“There was a process. I thought at the time everybody agreed to it. I didn’t hear any objections from the candidates…So I would think the Democratic National Committee would leave it where it is.”

The Clinton campaign is rejecting a compromise supported by Barack Obama to cut the Florida delegation in half as a penalty for violating the party’s rules. Hillary Clinton rejects this, but Bill Clinton stated last week that this would be “appropriate penalty.”

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Obama, D-Ill., called the idea of cutting Florida’s delegation in half “a very reasonable solution” to the party’s stand-off over how to treat a primary contest that was not sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.

Sen. Clinton dismissed the suggestion, saying she would insist on 100 percent representation for Florida.

“I think that is disingenuous but it’s also insulting to the 1.7-million Floridians who actually turned out to vote,” Clinton, D-N.Y., said of Obama’s proposal, according to the newspaper.

But just last week, Bill Clinton called giving Florida half its delegates — similar to how the Republican National Committee penalized the state for holding an earlier-than-allowed contest — an “appropriate penalty.”

“The Republican Party said ‘OK, we’d like to win Florida in the fall so we are gonna invoke our rule, they got out of turn, we will seat their delegates as half a delegate and seat their superdelegates,’ ” Clinton said at a campaign event in Missoula, Mon. “That is an appropriate penalty.”

Later in the same speech, he pointed out that the same penalty was applied by the GOP to Michigan, which also held a primary earlier than the party allowed.

Outrage Against Clinton Continues

Early this morning I posted a run down of what various bloggers were saying about Hillary Clinton’s latest comments on Florida and Michigan. More negative reaction was posted today. The consensus in the blogosphere (excluding those rare blogs which back Clinton) is that this further demonstrates her dishonesty and lack of suitability to be president. While her campaign has been characterized by Nixon/Bush levels of dishonesty, her latests statements on Florida and Michigan are seen as undermining the Democratic process. After over seven years of a Republican president who many Democrats see as illegitimate, we do not want to repeat this problem by having a Democrat move towards the presidency based upon such violations of the democratic process.

Looking at additional responses, Josh Marshall writes:

I’ve always assumed, as I think most people have, that once the nomination is settled the Florida and Michigan delegates will be seated. And I can see if Sen. Clinton wants to embrace this issue to claim a moral victory even while coming short of her goal of the nomination. As things currently stand, seating them would still leave Sen. Clinton behind in delegates.

But Sen. Clinton is doing much more than this. She is embarking on a gambit that is uncertain in its result and simply breathtaking in its cynicism.

I know many TPM Readers believe there is a deep moral and political issue at stake in the need to seat these delegations. I don’t see it the same way. But I’m not here to say they’re wrong and I’m right. It’s a subjective question and I respect that many people think this. What I’m quite confident about is that Sen. Clinton and her top advisors don’t see it that way.

Why do I think that? For a number of reasons. One of her most senior advisors, Harold Ickes, was on the DNC committee that voted to sanction Florida and Michigan by not including their delegates. Her campaign completely signed off on sanctions after that. And Clinton was actually quoted saying the Michigan contest didn’t count. Michigan and Florida were sanctioned because they ignored the rules the DNC had set down for running this year’s nomination process.

The evidence is simply overwhelming that Sen. Clinton didn’t think this was a problem at all — until it became a vehicle to provide a rationale for her continued campaign.

Now, that’s politics. One day you’re on one side of an issue, the next you’re on the other, all depending on the tactical necessities of the moment. But that’s not what Clinton is doing. She’s elevating it to a level of principle — first principles — on par with the great voting rights struggles of history. There’s no longer any question that she’s going to win the nomination. The whole point of the popular vote gambit was to make an argument to super-delegates. And that’s fine since that’s what super-delegates are there for — to make the decision by whatever measure they choose. But they’ve made their decision. The super delegates are breaking overwhelmingly for Obama. They simply don’t buy the arguments she’s making.

This was the tipping point for Steve Benen who has defended Clinton in the past but can no longer tolerate her tactics:

Just yesterday, I defended Hillary Clinton and her rationale for prolonging the Democratic nominating fight. Given that her own campaign chairman recently said the race would wrap up in early June, and Clinton seemed to honoring a relative cease-fire, there was no real urgency about her withdrawing…

By last night, Clinton had made my defense of her efforts look rather foolish. In fact, looking back, I’ve defended Clinton, more than once, when people said she was putting her own interests above those of the party and the nation.

But after seeing her tactics yesterday, I’m done defending Hillary Clinton…

I’m 35, and have been following politics for quite a while, and I’ve never been so disappointed with a politician I’ve admired and respected. Yesterday’s tactics weren’t just wrong, they were offensive. For that matter, they seem to be part of a deliberate strategy to tear Democrats apart and ensure a defeat in November.

For several weeks, I’ve appreciated the fact that Clinton considers herself the superior candidate, and has kept her campaign going in the hopes, from her perspective, of saving the party from itself. But after yesterday, it’s become impossible for me to consider Clinton’s intentions honorable. Her conduct is not that of a leader.

What’s so striking is the shamelessness of her reversal(s). When Florida and Michigan broke party rules and were punished by the DNC, Clinton not only supported the decision, she honored it and spoke publicly about those votes not counting. One of her own top strategists was responsible for making the decision in the first place. Now, Clinton is saying, “Never mind what I said and did before.”

Clinton and her campaign insisted that this was a race for delegates, as per party rules. Now, Clinton is saying, “Never mind what I said and did before.” Clinton and her campaign said the finish line was 2,025. Now, Clinton is saying, “Never mind what I said and did before.”

Instead of trying to help bring the party together — Election Day is 24 weeks away — Clinton went to Florida to argue that if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, his nomination will be illegitimate. And if the DNC plays by the rules Clinton used to support, it’s guilty of vote-suppression — comparable to slavery, Jim Crow, and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe

Clinton is attacking Democrats for playing by party rules. Worse, she supported those rules until it became self-serving to do otherwise. And now she’s characterizing anyone who disagrees with her as being an opponent of democracy.

There is no excuse for these campaign tactics. There is no defense, there is no rationale, there is spin. It is a painful example of one individual putting ego and ambition above all, consequences be damned…

Many Dems have been waiting for a soft landing, a graceful exit, a classy wrap-up. Clinton, for reasons that I want desperately to understand, has chosen to abandon these norms and instead choose a destructive, divisive path.

She’s playing a dangerous game in which the only winner is the Republican Party.

Steven Taylor writes:

This is simply irresponsible and goes beyond any “tearing the party apart” attack and is the kind of thing that damages our democracy, because there will be people who will come away from this situation thinking that, in fact, the process of rigged in Obama’s favor and/or that Florida’s vote was going to count until an outside power intervened and illegitimately ignored an outcome that authorities didn’t like (i.e., the Zimbabwe comparison). This is not a healthy notion to be sewing in the minds of the citizenry. Clinton know full well the history of the situation in Florida and Michigan and supported the decisions at the time, and now she is trying to rewrite history to serve her own narrow political interests. That is irresponsible, shameful and is the kind of thing that indicates that she isn’t fit to be the president.

Tbogg writes:

Quite frankly I have never seen such a gross example of intellectual dishonesty, disregard for reality on the ground, and shamelessness since, well, actually the last time Bill Kristol was on TV, but never mind that.

We won’t vote for her. The reality on the ground for us is that we do pretty well for ourselves under a Republican administration and I would be willing to take my chances with a solidly Democratic congress, but without her. Sorry folks, but there are a lot of people like us. I know that we’re all supposed to join hands and pull together for a greater more progressive tomorrow and yadda yadda yadda…. but when it comes to Hillary Clinton, fuck that noise. My contempt for her has reached the Lieberman line.

There is one thing that I truly believe in and that is fairness. You may not like the rules, but once you agree to them, you play by them. Hillary Clinton can’t even manage to do someting as simple as that.

She doesn’t deserve to be the first woman president.

She won’t be.

I have to agree. As much as I disagree with John McCain, the integrity of the democratic process is more important than the many issues where McCain is wrong. A power mad egomaniac such as Hillary Clinton must be stopped, even if that means putting another Republican in the White House. Besides, if McCain wins we have a more moderate Republican party than we have now and most likely a Democratic Party with a larger majority which might finally learn how to be an effective opposition party. With any luck McCain could be limited to one term and we could try again with a decent Democratic candidate. If Clinton wins she will reshape the party in her image and we will have no acceptable alternative for at least eight years.

Clinton Again Proves That She Is Unfit To Be President

In so many ways Hillary Clinton has destroyed her chances of winning the nomination by her own actions. She decided to run a dishonest, Rove-style campaign which only created a greater demand for a politician such as Obama who has avoided such typical political tactics. Her campaign resorted to racism, losing the support of black voters as well as the respect of most principled people. Her use of Michigan and Florida to justify remaining in the race only highlights the degree to which Clinton does not deserve to be president. Each of these tactics has resulted in the further loss of support for Clinton.

Clinton is now equating her hypocritical attempt to change the rules with regards to Michigan and Florida with the civil rights movement and with conditions in Zimbabwe. For many this is an example of irrationality from Clinton which exceeds what we’ve already heard and further proves that she is unfit to be president. Jonathan Chait writes:

Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric today about counting the results in Florida and Michigan is simply incredible. Her speech compares discounting the Florida and Michigan primaries to vote suppression and slavery.

It’s worth repeating: They supported this “disenfranchisement.” Here’s a New York Times story from last fall, headlined, “Clinton, Obama and Edwards Join Pledge to Avoid Defiant States.”

Moreover, it’s obviously true that Obama not campaigning, organizing, or advertizing in those states hurt him, and helped the more familiar candidate in Clinton. She decided to campaign to change the rules only after it became her interest to do so.

This gambit by Clinton is simply an attempt to steal the nomination. It’s obviously not going to work, because Democratic superdelegates don’t want to commit suicide. But this episode is very revealing about Clinton’s character. I try not to make moralistic characterological judgments about politicians, because all politicians compromise their ideals in the pursuit of power. There are no angels in this business. Clinton’s gambit, however, truly is breathtaking.

If she’s consciously lying, it’s a shockingly cynical move. I don’t think she’s lying. I think she’s so convinced of her own morality and historical importance that she can whip herself into a moralistic fervor to support nearly any position that might benefit her, however crass and sleazy. It’s not just that she’s convinced herself it’s okay to try to steal the nomination, she has also appropriated the most sacred legacies of liberalism for her effort to do so. She is proving herself temperamentally unfit for the presidency.

Besides noting that Clinton originally supported this “disenfranchisement,” it is also worth remembering how Terry McAulliffe has changed his position out of political expediency. Plus Clinton herself once said that, “It’s clear, this election they’re having is not going to count for anything” with regards to the Michigan primary.

Andrew Sullivan is even harder on Clinton than Chait was:

How do you respond to a sociopath like this? She agreed that Michigan and Florida should be punished for moving up their primaries. Obama took his name off the ballot in deference to their agreement and the rules of the party. That he should now be punished for playing by the rules and she should be rewarded for skirting them is unconscionable.

I think she has now made it very important that Obama not ask her to be the veep. The way she is losing is so ugly, so feckless, so riddled with narcissism and pathology that this kind of person should never be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Justin Gardner writes:

I think it’s obvious that Clinton’s campaign is now pretty much constructed on Democrats’ naivete. That’s all this is. And for those who don’t pay attention and haven’t heard her previously agree that Florida and Michigan’s delegates shouldn’t count, all of this sounds stirring I’m sure.

So to all of you who fall into the group I’ll reiterate that she only started talking about Florida and Michigan when it was clear she was running into trouble. And then she really ramped up the rhetoric when Obama started racking up wins in those post-Super Tuesday states she had ignored because her campaign thought the contest would be over by then. And that’s the only reason folks. It’s on the record and her actions are clearly transparent.

In short, she’s playing very intellectually dishonest politics and that means she’s essentially lying to her supporters, the media, etc. Very discouraging, but there it is.

John Cole writes, “I think it is time to stop taking her seriously.”

Fortunately the superdelegates are not buying these arguments from Clinton and are not taking her seriously. A final comment from Joe Gandelman begins by comparing Clinton’s rhetorical style to George Bush’s and from there raises valid concerns about whether she will also govern like him:

Clinton’s rhetorical technique is similar to another political figure’s: President George Bush’s. Bush often uses the “there are those who say” when “those” may not have said what he said at all.

Here, Clinton is telling the Democratic party apparatus, and superdelegates who may not have tilted towards her, that if they don’t agree with what she asks for now that she didn’t advocate when she and other candidates signed the agreements not to contest the states, then that means the party “won’t even listen” to Florida and Michigan at all.

Hot button politics? Yes.

And some Democrats will cheer her on and say this shows what she could do against McCain.

But the chiller for some voters will be: is this a sign of how she would govern if she wins the Oval Office?

The White Working Class Vote and Electability

Marc Ambinder asks if Barack Obama needs the working class white votes.

COULD IT BE that Obama’s coalition (young voters, professionals, crossover men, the educated, the economically stable middle class voters, African American voters) gives him enough of a cushion? Maybe Democrats won’t need as many working class whites to win the election; correspondingly, the polarized primary has pushed them away from their nominee in general. What accounts for the disparity between the astonishingly high numbers of Democrats in states like Kentucky and West Virginia who say they’d vote for McCain — and Obama’s national lead in the polls? What is his coalition? And how does it translate into the 50 constituent parts of what a national lead actually is? Might Obama’s strength in the popular vote be a reflection of Democratic energy in large states and Republican sloth in large states — rather than a reflection of the coalition he needs to win the general election? States are more internally diverse than regions of states are. In other words — are the demographics of Obama’s coalition so skewed (in terms of previous coalitions) that his national lead will greatly overstate his relative strength in the electoral college? Or is Obama’s new coalition so robust as to absorb some of the bleeding of white, working class men in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and still end up winning? Tentative points to support the latter theory can be found in Obama’s primary victory in Iowa, where turnout far exceeded the expectations of everyone, in Wisconsin and Minnesota and Colorado, where Obama won handily but especially among Obama’s core demographic groups, and in the way the campaign has been able to organize 75,000 rallies on a May Sunday in Oregon.

Many Clinton supporters write off Obama supporters as “elitists” which is rather ironic as these Clinton supporters are the very ones who base their views on the assumption that the views of some voters (i.e. theirs) count while the views of other voters (i.e. the affluent, educated voters backing Obama) do not count. I’ve recently discussed a post from Norm Scheiber which explains that currently, “There are really two broad swing groups: one working-class, the other affluent.” Ambinder is concluding that Obama can win the election due to the number of swing voters backing him (in his case, the affluent, more educated group).

While doing well with the affluent, educated swing voters would probably be sufficient to win the election, fortunately this is not an either/or matter with regards to the Obama campaign. The Clinton campaign has become exclusionary, writing off Obama’s supporters as elitists and pretty much ensuring large numbers will vote for John McCain or stay home should Clinton win the nomination. In contrast, while Obama has done better among the affluent, educated voters, he also seeks to gain the support of the demographics previously prefering Clinton.

In many cases these were low-information voters who backed Clinton either due to name recognition or due to initially believing the negative attacks and distortions of Obama’s record coming from the Clinton campaign. Over time many of the Clinton supporters are coming to prefer him, possibly because Obama’s economic plans are much sounder than the politically-motivated plans coming from Clinton. Gallup now shows that most of the demographic groups which previously backed Clinton are moving towards Obama. Others might still prefer Clinton as their first choice, but will still turn out to vote for Obama should he be the Democratic nominee.

Obama’s problems with working class voters have been greatly exaggerated as, while this has appeared to be the case in some states, Obama has beaten Clinton among working class voters in other states. Ambinder concludes:

It goes without saying that white working class voters in Wisconsin are different than white working class voters in Kentucky, too. So maybe the question for Obama is: which white working class voters should he spend time courting? Should he spend any time in West Virginia, where centuries of racism and cultural conservative have calcified and still govern vote choice; or in Wisconsin, where, although racial and cultural tensions remain, they are soft, in decline, and are subordinate to other concerns?

Geography (and the attitudes of those who live in the area) does provide the key. As many of us have been pointing out, Obama’s primary problem is not with white working class voters nationwide but with those living in Appalachia. Josh Marshall has provided a summary of some of the features of the area, besides race, which result in the area being less likely to vote for Obama.

While Clinton easily beat Obama in Democratic primaries in the region, the area will also go Republican regardless of who the Democratic nominee is. It doesn’t matter much in terms of considering electability of the candidates if Obama does not do well in an area if Clinton cannot win the area in a general election campaign either. It is far more significant that the swing voters who do prefer Obama over Clinton will help Obama win many other states beyond Appalachia in a general election while these voters are less likely to support Clinton. Clinton’s problem is exacerbated by the use of race in the campaign, which undoubtedly will result in many black voters who normally vote Democratic staying home should she be the nominee.

The important point is not that Barack Obama doesn’t do well with poorly educated and often racist voters in Appalachia but that Clinton doesn’t do well among educated voters, affluent liberal voters, and black voters. Obama’s weakness among groups which are not likely to vote Democratic under any circumstance is far less significant than Clinton’s weakness in groups which could determine who wins the election.