Random thought: to win, Hillary has to take down Obama’s high-profile supporters among the superdelegates. Opinion leaders, organisers, that sort of thing. So, question: assassination is one thing but how the hell did she give Ted Kennedy a brain tumour? NUTC.*

Slate asks who can stop her? The answer is the people of Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico. Bama’s currently sitting on 1,959 delegates total, needs 2,026. There’s 80 pledged delegates at stake in the remaining two states and colonised charity, sorry special territory. Plus another 23 super-d’s. If Obama got say 11 super-d’s, he’d need 56 on 80 pledges.

He’s got Buckley’s of course. He’d need to get a 75% result across the board and even if he could get within spit of that in the Great Plains states, he won’t get close in Puerto Rico, where 50 of the 80 delegates come from, and where Hillary can still draw on a Hispanic base, diminished though that may be.

The only chance would be if by some telepathic act of will, some hundredth monkey morph field mindmeld thang, the voters of these three places, managed to collectively agree that their role in history is to finish this thing by a 100% Obama vote, a sort of collective, transcendent expression of the will.

Not that that would stop Hillary of course, because her official victory number is 2210 delegates, achieved by factoring in Michigan and Florida, a mathematically unattainable result.

There’s simply no reliable guide to what she’ll do now, but it seems less and less likely that she’ll bow out after the Great Plains finale on June 3. Were she of a mind to concede why would she leave it until those anticlimatic contests, which Obama will most likely get, to say “ahhhhwell — you win. Lotta fun. Let’s do it again.”

If sheer numbers were going to keep her out, why not use Indiana as an out? Or even Oregon/Kentucky yesterday? With one big win and one loss, it would be a “I could take this all the way, but for the good of the party…” and thereby regain much of the goodwill she’s pissed down the alley behind the nightclub over the last three months.

So no-one really knows what will happen in a fortnight, but my bet is that she’ll urge Democrats to work “together against the Republicans, until the late August Convention, where a leader of our great party will then be selected in a Democratic manner”.

When I wrote the first draft of this an hour ago, the next paragraph began:

That sounds crazy even as I say it — she wouldn’t dare, would she? Try that and Hillary would be assassination target number one. But nothing in the remaining three primaries is capable of giving a changed result, or even any new information — leaving one with the unavoidable conclusion that if she wasn’t going to the convention she would have conceded by now.

But then a Clinton interview come on the wires just thirty minutes ago, with this Q and A:

To the suggestion that the race could go beyond June 3, when South Dakota and Montana voters cast ballots — Clinton replied: “It could. I hope it doesn’t. I hope it’s resolved to everyone’s satisfaction by that date because that’s what people are expecting — but we’ll have to see what happens.

Man oh man, is that a mafia answer or what? Could your shop burn down? It could. I hope it doesn’t. Your children’s ears come back daily, prepaid FedEx? They could. I hope they don’t. God knows how, but Hillary makes it possible to hear menace in written communication. Hello, she threatened.

So it will go on.

Course, there’ve been floor-flights before, notably in 1972. But in that era, New Hampshire was in March, the Convention in July, and there were only a few weeks hiatus. McGovern was the front-runner, but seven candidates had won state primaries, and four of them, holding about twenty states, were in favour of continuing the Vietnam war, to which McGovern was opposed.

The Convention was thus the political junkie’s ultimate chess game, with accreditation rules, duplicate delegations, a wild card in southern segregationist George Wallace, and the possibility that the eventual nominee would be someone like Humphrey or Muskie who had themselves each won only a handful of states. There was no 24 rolling news, and two distinct programmes, two different visions of the party and the country were in contest.

Conversly, the ten weeks following the June 3 final showdown are going to make the last two months feel like St Petersburg after the fall of the Tsar.

What gives Hillary the skerrick of a chance beyond falling planes, more tumours etc, comes not from anything she’s doing or that Obama’s doing, but from what McCain isn’t — specifically convincing people that his world view is accurate, pertinent, compelling or a break from Bush. What’s becoming clearer is that McCain may have vastly misread the mood of the country regarding both the recession that’s descended upon it, and the war.

McCain’s trying to be Reaganite, with a mixture of rhetorical foreign resolve and domestic populism. Neither have worked. Lately he’s been trying to bait Obama on any suggestion that diplomacy might be of use, and the process is yielding absurd results, such as his insistence that Iran represents as great a threat to the US as the old Soviet Union. McCain was already fudging the response by his second or third time through it, saying something about “underestimating Iran being foolish.”

But there’s no way out of it. You either go with the full threat scenario — and sound paranoid — or go with the vaguer warning and sound like grandpa, urging everyone to wear a jumper. Either way it sounds increasingly hysterical compared to Obama’s argument that simply having a dialogue with your enemies is a good idea. McCain at his worst has an Austin Powers edge to his worldview, as if Ahamdinejahd may shoot darts loaded with secret compliance poison from the collar of those $29 jackets he likes.

The other half of the message — sunny Reaganite populism — fares no better, when gas is $4.50 a gallon in big cities, a triple of the price over a few years. With that sort of stuff and with major gaps in his suggestions on health care, economic recovery and the like, McCain is increasingly looking like the bloke who doesn’t get it — who is living in a past of American supremacy and unquestioned ease. The fact that half the population unconsciously thinks of him as a WW2 vet now helps more than it hurts. For a lot of people in the early years of raising a family, he has the sort of irritating blitheness of someone who’s already done it, and under easier conditions.

Thus, on everything, McCain has been backpedaling — the 100 years in Iraq has now come down to a 2013 exit, the commitment to addressing climate change and economic lassitude has been ramped up into more or less full frontal assaults on Bush. All of which is a rich crop of self-contradiction and misjudgment for Democrats to harvest in the general campaign.

That should reassure, but it doesn’t. Why not? Because the utter nightmare for the Democrats is that this is the election — against McBush, McSame — that no-one could possibly lose… except an anorexic black postmodern Harvard lawyer, with terrorists for friends, and an inability to eat a waffle without pissing off half the rustbelt.

The possibility that of all the rich field of candidates offered in January, this massive 200-year-old political party has scientifically and systematically chosen the one person who cannot win off the back off the worst President in the country’s history, is so awful that it cannot be contemplated without bursting a blood-gushing ulcer.

Seriously, that would be more than a mere loss. It would be a catastrophe so demoralising that it would pretty much hollow out the Democrats from within, implode them. That may be a good thing in the long run, but it’s reasonable to expect Democrats not to think so.

So, with Obama the one candidate that could send enough middle-Americans, hating Bush but gritting their teeth — sorta political dutiful cunnilingus — back to McCain, Camp Clinton is staying in the game because they hope they can persuade the party to “come to its senses”. Superdelegates have switched once, the thinking goes, or so I suppose, they can switch back.

Who is say they are wrong? But most likely we’ll find out whether Obama is the start of a new Democratic politics, or, like Ted Kennedy, an example of American liberalism dying from the brain down.

*Never Underestimate The Clintons. Seriously, how did you manage to get the first three letters and miss the last one?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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