Hillary’s Problems

It seems as though everyone and their brother is writing Hillary Clinton’s political obituary these days.  Indeed, while many would say that may be a little premature, this is only because it is a Clinton all the obituaries are being written about.  There can be no mistake, any other politician in Clinton’s position (Mike Huckabee, say), would have editorial after editorial after OpEd after blog post written not merely writing the obit, but actually asking in a dazed confusion why the pol is still even in the race.

Haven’t they gotten the hint yet?  They’re done.

The fact is, Clinton can’t be counted out, but not because she’s capable of pulling off the miracle come from behind win necessary.  The odds are stacked way against her, and a politician twice as gifted as she would have a hard time doing it even with a perfect staff.  She has the benefit of neither and still has to contend with the near impossible task of winning at least 55% or more of the popular vote in every remaining contest just to tie Obama in pledged delegates.

The reason why Clinton can’t be counted out is because no one would put it beyond her to resort to unequivocally dirty tactics to secure the nomination; not exactly a stunning tribute to her character.  Seating Florida and Michigan without a do-over, strong arming Super Delegates, and peeling off pledged delegates all tactics people suspect she may use, and worse, she has more than telegraphed that she’s not afraid to employ.

And so here we are; not at the end of life for the Clinton campaign, but we’re definitely on the death bed with the Devil looming over with a gold contract and a handsome feather quill.  She may yet still come away with the nomination, but for all intents and purposes, she has lost the primary.

Why?  How did the inevitable become first evitable and then looking at the frontrunner from second place?

The Huffington Post has a clip that hits more than a few key points in a few seconds.

In the clip, Hillary is seen sarcastically mocking Obama for what has become a key component of his message; the hope that political differences can be put aside in the name of progress.  It’s a pretty harsh bit of riffing on Obama, and some would say those who have chosen to support him, but is it likely to be overly successful?

Probably not.

In this clip, we see a glimpse of many of the failures of the Clinton campaign even though it’s not even a full minute long, but then, that is the clarity with which we are able to see the downfall’s of the candidate who once promised she was going to be the nominee and have the whole thing sewn up on February 5th.

First, there is a definite image problemthat hte Clinton camp has had to contend with from the very beginning.  Outside of the fact that she was inevitable and running essentially as an incumbent, the Clinton campaign has struggled to define her through any kind of narrative.  The Clinton persona as advertized by her campaign is an incredible construct, an amorphous entity with multiple personalities.  Seemingly on a weekly basis the Clinton campaign has changed how they would define the candidate; one week she’s a tough, take no prisoner’s executive, the next, like Sears, we’re expected to see the softer side.

The fact that the Clinton campaign has not been able to adequately build up a narrative that projects to the voters who Clinton really is, the voters are then asked to make up their own minds as to who she is, she is defined not by the narrative, but instead by her actions and by key events.  She’s defined by clips exactly like this, and given the negative impressions that Clinton has had to battle going into this thing, that’s not a good thing.

Indeed, the narrative of the campaign as a whole has done much to slowly kill Hillary in this race; this clip embodying the kind of tough spot she is in.  Her opponent, Obama, has successfully established himself as the candidate for change and hope; the product of a disciplined campaign that did exactly what Clinton’s campaign seems unable to do.  Since Obama has been able to set the standard in narrative building, that leaves Hillary with a particularly unsavory position; campaigning against hope, campaigning against change in an election year where both are hotly sought after commodities.

Then we have to look at the rank negative campaigning in general.  No one makes this point better than Cernig does at the Newshoggers.  I realize that it’s hard to take criticism towards the Clinton campaign, nor praise toward the Obama campaign, from me at face value.  I’ve chosen a horse and have decided to defend that horse any way I can.  But Cernig, who is decidedly left of both me and Obama hits it dead on:

Will they both please just cut it the f**k out?! But especially Clinton. I’m one of those who would be most sceptical of Obama’s experience and his Blair-style “all the people all the time” rhetoric if she’d just give me room to do so. But every time her campaign indulges in another outrageous Republican-class smear, I end up defending Obama by proxy just by pointing out how ridiculously hypocritical she’s being. Sheesh.

The Clinton campaign has had no qualms going negative this campaign season, and have gotten punished for it at virtually every turn, from Bill Clinton’s decidedly hamhanded attacks prior to South Carolina, to the bogus plagiarism charge that resulted in Hillary getting booed at the last debate.

And while I’m at it, it bears mentioning that for all the talk about the political deftness of the Clintons, it has become an interesting point about this campaign that they’re just so bad at the mud slining.  You want an example of why Clinton’s campaign has been flailing since Super Tuesday, look no further than political hacks such as Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson.

Which takes us out of the realm of the clip.

The greatest dichotomy of the Clinton campaign isthe disparity between perhaps the only bit of imaging rhetoric that they have stuck with from the beginning, and the facts on the ground.  Clinton is famous for saying that she is ready to be president “On day one”.  But her executive skills in running this campaign have proven otherwise.  Infighting among leading campaign strategists has begun to waft its way to the news wires, wasteful spending, the lack of preparation to compete in places like Texas, the ill-conceived failure to compete in most caucuses, and the unexplainable employ of the Giuliani strategy after Giuliani proved that it doesn’t work.  All of this and more painting a picture that Hillary wasn’t even ready to run a campaign on day one, let alone a country.

But it really comes back to the image and how she defined herself.  Obama defined himself early on, and kept to the script, be it true or merely well written fiction.  By contrast, Clinton has flailed at defining herself and as a result has been defined as the dirty candidate, the mud slinger and the cheater.  And every single time she adds to this definition of herself as a candidate, it only strengthens the message that Obama is running on, every attack , every promise to strong arm super delegates, all of it reinforcing the core concept behind the Obama message that American politics need to be changed.

The real problem with the Clinton campaign is that at this point, every move it makes makes Obama that much stronger.

4 Responses to “Hillary’s Problems”

  1. That video of her is it. She is done.

    My wife over heard it while I was watching and she said, “is that Hillary making fun of Obama? That is so uncool? What is wrong with her?” This from a woman who liked her not three weeks ago.

  2. plum says:

    Actually, Hillary does have a point about Obama’s campaign seeming to present an idealistic face for the cameras while putting out some mailers that were pretty questionable. I’m still undecided on whether this is hardball campaigning or whether he truly believes that the NAFTA and health care mailers were legit.

    However, in the end it doesn’t matter, and Hillary supporters are wrong to cry foul. I mean, even if they’re right and Obama is using some underhanded tactics — they still have no answer for it! This alone ought to give anyone reason to question whether they can really handle the GOP. Which makes me think the campaign that’s been hopelessly naive is not the one that’s leading in the polls.

    As for the mockery moment, I’m one of those people who happen to think that mocking one’s opponents can be very effective, if done well. Need I say it is difficult to pull off; it’s a question of body language and delivery, and that’s what’s so appalling here. Hillary’s demeanor is more school bully than school leader — and nowhere close to presidential. Her erratic behavior just reminds voters of all the other Hillarys we’ve been presented with since January. Which one is the real Hillary? And do we want this woman to have her finger on the bomb?

  3. terry says:

    What’s really sad is that this now provides more fodder for those who don’t think a woman should be president.

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