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(Bumped) Richelieu: The Perfect Storm

7:01 PM, Apr 25, 2008 • By RICHELIEU
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Winning Pennsylvania is the worst thing that could have happened to Hillary Clinton. Had she lost, her now ragtag campaign would have been mercifully put out of its long misery. Barack Obama alone would be accountable for his general election performance. Instead, Clinton won Pennsylvania's primary with a strong margin and the Democratic race has a new media narrative. Obama is no longer the perfect general election juggernaut, inspiring new voters and driving fear into the hearts of Republicans. He's become a general election loser who cannot attract the vital votes of white blue collar Democrats.

While all of this cocktail party supposition is unproven since the actual general election is months away and spring primaries are very different contests from fall elections, the damage to Obama has been done. Weeks from now, when the dust settles after a few more final primaries and the odd Clinton tactical victory, the pre-convention rubbishing of Barack Obama will be complete and the credit for most of it will go to Hillary Clinton.

She is likely to pay a price for it in the future, when it is likely she will at least try to run again. She will face a penalty for wounding a presumptive Democratic nominee and helping make a general election race far more competitive than anyone thought it would be.

In fact, if the GOP has a large Bronze medal of distinction, we should cast one at once and gleefully award it to Mrs. Clinton for her meritorious service to our cause. For seldom has the generic environment looked so bad for Republicans. November will still be difficult and much is now uncertain, but is does appear that a perfect storm could be brewing. First, the nomination of John McCain, a different kind of Republican in a year where only such independence can survive. Second, a long and damaging Democratic primary pitting one vital part of its base in deadly combat against another and continuing that fight long beyond a sensible conclusion. Mrs. Clinton's hand alone is on this throttle of Democratic fratricide and she appears to be accelerating the engine of Democrat destruction rather than easing it back.

Clinton's motive is not hard to understand. Politics at the top is an uncertain business where dogged perseverance is often rewarded. Her campaign, mathematically now so improbable, runs on nothing more than the fumes of a possible Obama crack up. Some horrible gaffe or Cook county scandal surfacing in time to doom Obama in the few remaining primaries and spark a superdelegate turnaround that would crown Hillary Clinton the Democrat nominee. Since, as every superdelegate knows, stripping Obama of the nomination for anything short of committing a felony or making a praiseful remark about Dick Cheney would tear the Democratic party into pieces, such a reversal in Mrs. Clinton's bleak fortunes is very unlikely.

Yet she stays in. Wishing and hoping and striving for political disaster to strike the campaign of Barack Obama, the near certain Democratic nominee. Anyone who once had doubts about Mrs. Clinton's loyalty to the interests of the Democratic party instead of to her own ambition now has their answer.