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 Day 19

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Straggling to Denver

Pennsylvania: the Worst of All Possible Worlds

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN And JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

For the Democratic Party it was the worst possible result. If Hillary Clinton had won by 20 points, which was her lead in Pennsylvania around the time the Rev Jeremiah Wright’s sermon jumped from Youtube to cable news, then there would have a case for arguing that yes, Obama had taken too much damage from Wright, from his ill-considered remarks about small-town bitterness at a California fundraiser and his tenuous ties to a former leader of the Weather Underground.

If on the other hand Hillary had eked out a victory by 5 points or less in a state tailor-made for her it would have accelerated her downward drift, and her campaign funding crisis would have been insoluble, assuming – which we safely can – that Bill wouldn’t give her a credit line on the $109 million earned since 2001. But in the end Pennsylvania gave  her an 8 to 10 point victory. The demographic contour of the Democratic voters was old, (second, behind Florida, in the union), Catholic (40 percent of those voting last night). Almost 60 per cent of the vote was cast by women. The state is more rural than Ohio and 55 per cent of the voters had high school degrees or less.

It’s clear that a sizable chunk of those questioned  after they voted lied to the pollsters. The exit polls showed a 5 point margin for Hillary. In the end the margin was approximately twice that. This is a big problem for Obama as is the fact that far more voters for Hillary said they would never vote for Obama than the other way round. One of Hillary Clinton’s big achievements has been to seriously, maybe fatally, wound Obama among her own supporters.

Since South Carolina, back at the start of March, the Clintons have deliberately  fragmented the Democratic vote. Here’s where the mysterious resignation of John Edwards from the campaign race has been particularly significant. As the Clintons  methodically widened the racial divide, Edwards would have been there to capture the white working class male voters who don’t particularly care for Hillary. With Edwards in the race she never would have been able to get away with her tricky footwork on NAFTA, and he would have savaged her on her campaign and familial ties to the anti-labor death squad regime in Colombia.

Hillary ran as a caste member of The Deerhunter, playing Russian roulette in this instance with the Democratic Party’s chance for the White House and control of Congress. In the final days of the campaign she rhetorically obliterated Iran with the clear implication that this is what real Presidents do, whether at 3 am, after breakfast or before dinner. What was Obama meant to do? Come on as a gun-toting black man? The Pennsylvania State Troopers would have gunned him down.

Hillary must know that she cannot possibly win the nomination by any rational standard. Hence the comic moment on Tuesday when her finance chairman Terry  McAuliffe was asked  to define what Mrs Clinton would invoke as a fair claim on the Democratic nomination. McAuliffe said it would either be  a victory in the popular vote in Democratic primaries and caucuses — including Michigan and Florida –  (a very remote contingency) or a lead in the pledged delegates (an impossibility) or a lead among Superdelegates (among  whom, since March 6, HRC has collected 12 and Obama 88) or there would be a consensus among party leaders that Obama is incapable of beating McCain. Obama is still ahead of McCain, though thanks to Mrs Clinton’s efforts the margin is narrowing. 

In other words there’s no rational scenario here, except the one suggested here by St Clair a month ago that her real aim is to ensure a McCain victory this year and come back in 2012. 

In two weeks comes the Indiana primary which will probably be close. Obama is likely to win North Carolina, South Dakota, Montana and Oregon. Hillary will most likely  win West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico. At the end of the day Obama ends up 150-160 pledged delegates ahead of her, and about a 500,000 edge in the popular vote. He will have won about 32 states against HRC’s 20.

So on we straggle.