Politico: "Clinton has virtually no chance of winning"

Two of the site's top staffers say Hillary Clinton has no chance at the nomination, and wonder why no one else will say it.

Published March 21, 2008 10:05PM (EDT)

The big political news of the moment is the gauntlet thrown down by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of the Politico, who declared Hillary Clinton's campaign dead in an article published Friday afternoon. VandeHei and Allen also ask what's keeping the media from acknowledging this. They write:

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.

Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party's most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote -- which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle -- and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet...

The real question is why so many people are playing. The answer has more to do with media psychology than with practical politics.

Journalists, for instance, have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is closer than it really is. Most coverage breathlessly portrays the race as a down-to-the-wire sprint between two well-matched candidates, one only slightly better situated than the other to win in August at the national convention in Denver.

One reason is fear of embarrassment. In its zeal to avoid predictive reporting of the sort that embarrassed journalists in New Hampshire, the media -- including Politico -- have tended to avoid zeroing in on the tough math Clinton faces.

It's hard to argue with VandeHei and Allen's math here (though we would note that Obama can't win without superdelegates either, except of course that he wouldn't be using them to pull a come-from-behind victory, and the context matters a great deal in this case), but in a bit of a nit-picky point, we do wonder what media they're watching and reading. Adam Nagourney had a big article in the New York Times saying similar things about Clinton's electoral math just Thursday. NBC's Chuck Todd has been seeing doom for Clinton for more than a month now. And several pundits have been saying -- for weeks -- not just that Clinton can't win, but that she needs to drop out.

Granted, things have changed recently. With the idea of revotes in Florida and Michigan now apparently dead, it looks truly unlikely that Clinton will be able to catch Obama in the popular vote, let alone in elected delegates. And, certainly, most of the media is still reporting this race straight, and treating Clinton like she has a chance to win. But it's just a little puzzling that VandeHei and Allen didn't note the many prominent voices who've written articles similar to theirs, or said it on television or radio.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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