Hillary’s scary ad premiered in Texas – and only in Texas – last week, prompting in this viewer at least, Chandler Bing’s exclamation, “too many jokes!”.

You haven’t seen it? Where the hell have you been? Oh, that’s right. Okay, well it begins with children sleeping in a suburban house, night vision, and then a phone ringing. Rumbling voice. “It’s three am and something happens in the world. The phone rings in the White House. Who do you want answering it?” It’s Hillary’s toughest ad yet, sprung in the last days of the campaign, sacrificing any longer term effect it might have, for the opportunity to catch the Obama campaign short. Times like this you wish you had your own sketch show – again. It’s 3am! It’s Bill calling, needing to be bailed out again! It’s 3am! The call is coming from inside the house! It’s a coed trying to get out of the closet Bill locked her in! It’s 3am! It’s Monica! She just won’t let go! Etc etc.

It certainly raised the campaign to a new pitch, but Obama dealt with it pretty easily, telling a crowd at another one of his ever-growing ‘Stand For Change’ rallies that it’s not who answers the phone but the judgements they made previously – ie. Hillary on Iraq – that matter. It was an effective, efficient line, scarcely scintillating, but it’s a measure of the Obamamania taking over the media that it was treated as if it were the collected works of Churchill. No-one really knows what effect the ad will have, but it’s already been written off in the unfolding narrative as if Obama had neutralised it with one sweep of his majestic hand.

The hue-and-cry after Hillary is the media pack effect at its worst, but she is hardly blameless in this respect, increasingly positioning herself as the mean-girl candidate against Obama’s Mr Nice act. She has no choice in this, because the polls indicate that the Obama effect has been pretty much the same here as anywhere – a relentless draining away of support, 1 % or so every coupla days as the Obamamobile criss-crosses the primary zone. She’s still leading by 2% — 48 to 46 – in Ohio, but is now trailing by 4% in Texas – and the Ohio numbers will probably come in. She followed up the scared kiddies ad with a demand that Obama release all documents relating to his work for a bloke named Rezko, a Chicago slumlord – I’m quoting his passport – who Obama got some legal work and support from a few years back. However, any traction she mighta got from that challenge is diminished by the fact that she’s failed to release her tax records as she promised to months ago.

The perception that she’s done to a turn, probably realistic, is now so well-established that party luminaries are renewing their call for her to promise to quit if she gets anything less than a stunning four state victory (New England afterthoughts Vermont and Rhode Island are also in the race). That’s effectively an invitation to commit hari-kiri for the good of the party, since a draw or a small loss in Texas and Ohio would still leave her with the possibility of taking it to a brokered convention. Having put machinery in place to deal with this – ie the superdelegates – the party has suddenly realised that there is a disastrous aspect to all this, ie the superdelegates, and the prospect that the Deputy Financial Comptroller who won an uncontested election in Butkis County, may be deciding the next President of the United States and don’t much like uppity types, if you know what I mean.

Most likely the support for Hillary, already tentative – with key figures like former civil rights leader John Lewis publicly switching their nomination to Obama, a pretty embarrassing spectacle – would fall through the floor, if she persisted past a so-so result Tuesday. Indeed, the jumpy “is Obama a target?” talk may be misplaced; if she continues on a quixotic mission past Tuesday, party chairman Howard Dean may shoot her himself. He’s a Vermonter and they tend to be both ultra-liberal and gun nuts – the pistol’s legal, the leather holster’s a no-no. If Clinton perishes in the world’s second ever maple syrup drowning you’ll know Howard did what he had to do.

Down here in Texas, Hillary has a degree more support but that needs to be explained. I’m in Austin, slacker capital of the south, a city where whole blocks look like a dusty version of Brunswick St parachuted in. Actually Brunswick St in the 80s, when it was all weird furniture and wheatgrass shakes in the cafes, and the girls dressed like an explosion in an op shop. Add ten-gallon hats, segways, 9-11 conspiracy t-shirts and about two thousand mentally ill beggars and welcome to Austin. It was Texas Independence Day, which is variably celebrated across the state – a lot of conservative Texans don’t really want to acknowledge they were ever an independent republic carved out of Mexico. In Austin, it is celebrated ironically, as some sort of celebration of the coming break-up of the United States into anarchist autonomous zones, everyone driving around with sort of homemade Texas pirate flags trailing from restored Cadillacs. In one of the cafes on Guadalope, Fawn, a communications student, was one of the many people for Hillary, because she was the sort of person who regarded Ralph Nader as a dangerous sellout moderate “no-one the Democrats could offer is gonna be anywhere near [actually it was more like naaaaiirrr – I never met anyone else outside of Gloucestershire who could put nine vowels in a one syllable word] where I want to be. An I think McCain’s gonna eat Obama up”.

It’s hardly the typical form of Hillary-support, but it’s a not uncommon reaction from anyone who regards themselves as politically involved. Much of Obama’s support has swept in from outside the party, from people who are not in any standard sense, political. People hardened by a bitter seven years are far more likely to inject a crude political calculus into their considerations. But here there and everywhere, that hasn’t been enough to stand against the Obamatide. My bet is he will sweep Vermont around 60-40 or higher, get Rhode Island 55-45, and take Texas by three or four points, and run evens in Ohio.

And that Hillary will then rush at him, dig her nails into the top of his face and yell something about ‘tearing off the mask’ of the ‘lizard creature’ before the drugs take hold. Bill will be sad for eight minutes and then screw the cloakroom girl.

It’s 3am. Do you know where your head’s at?

Peter Fray

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