What should Hillary Clinton do now?

If she stays in the race she should focus on her strengths, not Obama's flaws.

By Joan Walsh
May 10, 2008 3:10PM (UTC)
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Hillary Clinton critics have been calling for her to drop out of the Democratic primary race since February. But the volume went up this week, with even Clinton supporters like former Sen. George McGovern saying it's time for her to leave the race and endorse Barack Obama. She says she's going to continue.

Clinton has every right to continue, of course. But she has to realize the results in Indiana and North Carolina significantly dimmed her hopes for the nomination. She had gained some momentum in the last month, she lost it Tuesday night, and she has almost no time to get it back. Her losses Tuesday hurt because they almost crushed her last argument to the superdelegates (whose support both she and Obama need in order to win): that voters don't know enough about Obama, and as they get to know him, their doubts grow. Big wins in Ohio and Pennsylvania, combined with the resurgence of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gave some credibility to that argument; voters in Indiana and North Carolina, two very different states, had a chance to validate Clinton's claim. A blowout in Indiana, combined with an upset or only a narrow loss in North Carolina, might have confirmed that the party would have buyer's remorse if it nominated the talented newcomer who racked up his delegate lead early.


Instead Clinton barely pulled out Indiana, and lost badly in North Carolina. Polls showed Wright mattered, but not enough to topple Obama, and the notion that superdelegates will, or should, overturn the will of voters became more far-fetched. Assuming the remaining states play out the way they're expected to, a few wins for Clinton, a few for Obama, Obama will, and should, be the Democratic nominee.

It's fine with me if Clinton soldiers on, but I agree with some of her critics that it's important that she adjust the tone of her campaign, to focus on her strengths, not Obama's flaws. So far many superdelegates are respecting Clinton's decision to continue, and not coming out en masse demanding she quit the race. But the party's tolerance for her continued campaign will diminish if all she does is bloody the likely nominee. She should focus on her superior healthcare plan and on her specific policy prescriptions, but mute her negativity about Obama.

I talk more about this in my video for Current this week.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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2008 Elections