No hand ever lay heavier on a TV remote control than that of your correspondent today, flicking to CNN for Hillary Clinton’s West Virginia victory speech, which she came out to give practically before the last ballot had dropped into the box. The vote went pretty much as everyone expected – with a quarter of votes counted Hillary’s vote has been hovering around 62%.

A realistic honest speech would have been a 45 second job, announcing victory, thanking supporters and acknowledging that the state is too white, rural, poor and Christian to be a measure of any wider trend, but that would be too much to hope for.

And so there is once again, the speech – the one that claims victory and then gives the latest rationale for continuing the race, moving on to an implicit or explicit argument as to why she’s the preferred candidate, followed by a shout to some people she met along the road, and then a mention of the fight they’ve got to take to John McCain when the whole thing’s sorted out.

Watching one of these things is like being at the Council of Trent, the Catholic conference which went for 25 years apparently, drafting a response to the Reformation. Halfway into it, all memory of when it started, all expectation of when it might end falls apart.

“Florence Steen, who requested an absentee ballot from a hospice….” that wakes you up. She’s into the recitation of the faithful….Dalton Harfield, really, “who sold his bike and his video games to contribute…” for goddsake what sort of person takes a 10-year-old’s money for a losing campaign? That’s just sick.

“I would like to congratulate my opponent Barack Obama—” well that’s a new angle, haven’t heard that for a while.

“Both Senator Obama and I think the Florida and Michigan delegates should be seated….”

Oh that was what it was for, softening up before sinking the slipper. Obama never said that of course, in that sense. He said he was willing to have a do-over in both Michigan and Florida, not to have the delegates – especially the Michigan delegates – seated and voting.

Tracy Flick strikes again.

The dilemma for Clinton is that her only way to argue for a position that gives her a majority is to argue for the inclusion of both Florida and Michigan – but since the inclusion of Michigan, where she was the only person on the ballot, is absurd, it hamstrings the argument.

Of course the result Clinton really prized in this was the poll which said that only a third of Democrats voting for Hillary in the primary would stay with the party in November if Obama gets the nod. There’s any number of complex sociological factors at work here of course, there’s Relative Affluence, Class, Identity, Status, Morality…if only there was a handy acronym for all of that.

When Obama gets the nomination, will he be able to swing round this ridiculous despite between two candidates of identical programmes? It’s looking less and less likely, but to be fair, that isn’t Hillary’s fault. That was the Reverend Wright and the San Francisco speech, though even without those disasters, there really isn’t much that Obama could have ever done to swing the Appalachian states over – short of a skin peel.

Nevertheless, Hillary’s suggestion that the election can’t be won without these states is less than true. Obama, if it is to be Obama, will succeed or fail on putting together a different complexion on the red state blue state map, splitting the red state monolith in the middle of the country.

Clinton’s supporters will say it can’t be done, that it never happens that way. Obama’s team say that things don’t change until they do.

And in any case there now ain’t no other way to do it.

Or, as West Virginia’s favourite son, John Denver remarked: Arggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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