For Clinton, some pre-postmortems

What happens if she loses big in New Hampshire? Why wait to find out?

By Tim Grieve
January 8, 2008 3:32AM (UTC)
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What happens if Hillary Clinton loses big in New Hampshire?

Notice that we said "if" there. Bob Shrum -- a man who knows a thing or eight about losing -- says he "strongly suspect[s] that the right word is 'when,'" and that Clinton's loss will be followed by "a few proto-obituaries for her campaign and many more stories about how it will be 'shaken up' or 'relaunched.'"


But why wait for the actual votes to be counted when it's easy enough to fire up the crematorium now? After predicting Clinton's impending loss, Shrum goes on to predict that "scapegoats will be found and exiled." First to be voted off the island: Pollster and strategist Mark Penn, if only because the candidate can't really fire strategist and former President Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton? The Politico's Mike Allen declares that Bill and Hillary are already "crafting a strategy to prevent a national stampede by Democrats to Barack Obama." That horse may be out of the barn, but Allen says the "emerging strategy" -- assuming that the New Hampshire results are ugly -- "will start with a concerted plea to voters, donors and the news media to hold off writing campaign obituaries until after the Feb. 5 primaries."

Allen predicts that "this will be followed, according to current planning within the Clinton circle, by a mix of negative advertising portraying Obama as a conventional, calculating politician, and positive advertising emphasizing her strength and experience."


Well, right, if Clinton doesn't just bail out of the race entirely. That's the wishful-thinking scenario Matt Drudge flashed for most of the day. One alleged "top campaign advisor" is alleged to have "lamented" to Drudge that Clinton "can't take multiple double-digit losses in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada" and might get out of the race quickly in order to avoid damaging "the Clinton brand."

Clinton said this morning that she's not dropping out, no matter what the good folks of New Hampshire say. "Whatever happens tomorrow, we're going on," she told CBS News. Asked today whether Clinton should drop out if she loses in New Hampshire, Barack Obama said he "would never presume to say."

Others apparently would. Talking Points Memo's Greg Sargent quotes a Clinton "advisor" who says that, while Clinton's "political warriors" are urging her to fight on, others close to her think she should get out sooner rather than later if she keeps losing. The reason: A blowout in the presidential run would hurt Clinton's Senate career. We're not sure what that means, exactly -- see John McCain and John Kerry, Teddy Kennedy, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, Lamar Alexander, Sam Brownback, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin and we're sure we're forgetting a few -- but we do know this: Dixville Notch, N.H., starts voting in about six hours.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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