What makes Hillary run? And run and run and run … it’s her devotion to the Democratic cause some say – she’s so convinced that McCain will make mincemeat out of a fey elitist Obama and that she’s the only who can beat McBush … it’s sheer egomania by now detractors say.

So convinced was she of a slam dunk victory that Obama’s rise and rise unbalanced her. She could see herself sliding into that Oval Office chair, finally in control, the right Clinton, after that priapic carb-junkie of a husband had stuffed everything up. No, say others, she may well be a gender avenger, but it’s on behalf of all women – as a representative of the second-wave feminism generation she feels a sacred trust to seal the deal on becoming the first representative coming from the 51% of the population that have never got up there…

And then of course there’s the money. As the news stories broke this week, it became clear that Hillary had “lent” her campaign another $6.4 million, on top of the $5m she lent it around the time of Super Tuesday. Even for the heavily cashed up Clintons, it’s a big whack to waste on all those hideous meat snacks she had to scarf down in Pennsylvania.

They’re loans, not personal spending on glory a la Ross Perot – the Clintons aren’t the type to spend their own money on anything – so they have the scope to recover them. However, that possibility has a time limit – the loan must be recovered by the date of the contest in question (the Party convention in this case) otherwise a campaign with more debts than assets can only raise another $250,000, no matter how much it owes. In other words: peanuts.

So, one theory is that the Clintons have to keep the show on the road now, even though Indiana blew the bloody doors off. Once the campaign is announced as over, the capacity to draw money in obviously goes to zero. Can you think of a more unappealing charity than reimbursing the Clintons? With only a few smallish primaries to go, the Clintons can grab what money they might be able to get from the devoted before the hammer comes down, and then concede after Puerto Rico, spending almost nothing on actual advertising. Following her concession, Obama would then swing behind their payback effort, using a few fundraisers (not in the IRA sense of a bank raid, though never underestimate the Clintons) as a way of keeping the publicity thang going, and also directing some of his mass of funds their way. How much of it they’ll get back remains to be seen, and would they do it? It’s desperately cynical to betray the hopes of your supporters for pure cash so ah ha ha ha … I can’t finish even a speculative version of that sentence.

My opinion is that she’s wholly rational, wholly focussed on winning, but knows it’s now a very long shot. Though it’s been said before, Obama is now swinging his guns round on to McCain, bouncing off McCain’s reiteration on the Today show that Hamas had endorsed Obama – though Hillary made a good showing in the Gaza primary. His schedule is now divided pretty evenly between the remaining primary states, and key swing states in the general.

The hubris may be a mistake though of course Obama never makes mistakes in this campaign, hey. Although he seems to be getting sharper and meaner – his comment on McCain re Hamas was that he was “losing his bearings” — ie. ballbearings, ie. marbles, ie. silly old geezer. It’s a nice catty little dig, just clear enough to make its point, subtle enough to make accusations of ageism sound petty and paranoid.

So maybe this has been Obama all along – a masterly strategy with all that hope and change stuff up front, and then a six-month knife fight. It would certainly be a pleasant alternative to an earlier darker suspicion which was that he was Bambi wandering into the headlights of the straight talk express.

Whether or not that’s the case, as Hillary has always thought it was, the weekend may focus her mind wonderfully. If even those hardy banjo-strumming West Virginia union types seem to be drifting away, then there may be a Saturday announcement.

Which is a short way of saying: “oh God, why … won’t … you … die …”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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