by Rick Rockwell
The pundits and the mainstream media have written Hillary Clinton's obituary several times during this primary season. Yet, here she is this morning, smiling after another Tuesday of primaries that has resurrected her presidential candidacy. Again.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) tried to put the best face on it during his speech in San Antonio last night (in a city, by the way, where he lost), but the fact is Sen. Clinton (D-NY) made up ground in the delegate count. (Obama did get the consolation prize of Vermont which more than equaled Clinton's win in Rhode Island.) And again, Clinton won big cornerstone states that will be even more important in the November election. Clinton carefully underscored this in her victory speech: she has won Texas, Ohio, California, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Florida. That’s a formula for a Democratic win in 2008.
But more importantly, by winning major states on Tuesday, Clinton now makes it almost impossible for either candidate to win the nomination before the convention. Indeed, if one candidate falters between now and Puerto Rico votes in June, that could spell the difference. But if this seesaw battle continues, it will all come down to the Democratic superdelegates and the convention in August.
For some of us, who would love to see the convention deadlocked, debating and considering other candidates, this was the best result.
But to do it, Clinton didn’t just have to beat Obama. She had to beat the media.
Take for instance the NPR reporter covering the Clinton campaign this weekend. In that report, it was all about Obama’s momentum. That reporter opined that it seemed like forever since Clinton had won a primary or caucus. “It’s been a long time since New Hampshire,” was nearly the final notation. As usual, the media framed the story the way they wanted, eager to crown the ultimate winners. Didn’t they forget Clinton actually won Super Tuesday in February? Since then, Obama had been on his winning march, which as our own pundit Jeff Siegel predicted (for more please go here and here), would likely end once the Senator from Illinois hit Texas.
Several items factored into Clinton’s Tuesday win. First, she launched an aggressive media campaign. And that campaign seemed to work, at least according to CNN’s exit polls, with those who made up their minds on who to pick in the past few days.
Here is what Clinton did right:
1) She became much more aggressive about attacking Obama’s record (or more to the point, lack of a record) and noting that although his rhetoric is wonderful, it lacks specifics. (Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who locked up the Republican nomination on Tuesday is already following a similar formula to knock down Obama, who remains the Democratic frontrunner.)
2) Clinton's controversial commercial using the hotline phone touched upon the issue of who voters would be confident with in the White House. It cleverly played on the themes of inexperience, but also because it was controversial, it generated plenty of free media about Clinton. This was something she needed because Obama is outspending her on television commercials.
3) Clinton timed her Arsenio Hall moment (some of us remember Bill Clinton on that now-defunct show playing his saxophone) perfectly. Her appearance in the opening sketch on Saturday Night Live made her seem relaxed and confident. Plus, the writers on SNL produced a skit that played to her theme: the media are stacked against her and sexist. With that withering satire, who would know that SNL and Tim Russert’s Meet the Press (for those who missed it, the SNL skit turned on Russert’s over-the-top debate questioning) were on the same network?
Although Clinton’s win makes Wyoming and Mississippi in the next week even more important, the next watershed contest looms in Pennsylvania in April. The Democratic race is far from over, no matter what the experts tell us.
For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:
- "Did Barack Obama Get the SNL Endorsement?"
- "The Hillary Clinton Potomac Primary Climate Check;"
- "Wolf Blitzer: Is Human Rights More Important than American National Security?" and
- "John McCain and the Republican Right."
Saturday Night Live
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