It’s all but over for Hillary Clinton
But will Obama make her his running-mate? Not if he can help it, says Alexander Cockburn
It looks as though it's over for Hillary Clinton and that the Democratic candidate for the US presidency in 2008 will be Barack Obama. To keep her flagging candidacy alive, Mrs Clinton's task yesterday was to show that the white working-class vote that gave her victory in Pennsylvania would sweep her to another convincing triumph in Indiana. It didn't happen.
Mrs Clinton needed a robust victory by ten points or so, but in the end she eked out the slimmest of margins, 51-49, and late yesterday evening even this tiny lead did not look entirely secure.
For a while on Tuesday night it even seemed as though Indiana's Lake County and the rustbelt town of Gary might conjure from the overwhelmingly black vote an upset win for Obama. Meanwhile in North Carolina, Obama rolled to victory by 14 points.
Even by mid-afternoon on Tuesday the Clinton camp was giving the impression of being triumphantly on the verge of derailing Obama's drive with a big win in Indiana. Obama had had a rough couple of weeks trying to leap clear of the ferocious rhetoric of his pastor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright. Hillary Clinton whacked the war drum tirelessly and continued to threaten to obliterate Iran. It was the first time one could sense a certain desperation in Obama. There was something close to panic in his diatribes against Wright.
But Mrs Clinton's strategy didn't work, and there are no other big states left for her to contest. Primary season is all but over, with Oregon the only significant contest left, one which Obama could well win.
There is now absolutely no way that Hillary Clinton can argue that she can beat Obama in either the popular vote this primary season, or in the count of committed delegates. Already across this last week Hillary's last line of defence the uncommitted superdelegates - showed a trickle of defections to Obama and the next few weeks will most likely see this turn into a steady stream.
Mrs Clinton's financial crisis is now acute and by late Tuesday the hot story was that her closest advisors are already in secret negotiations with the Obama camp, offering a deal. She will withdraw from the race on condition that Obama pays off her campaign debt, which may now be nearing $25m; also that he makes her his running-mate in the fall.
Obama could certainly offer some sort of financial bail-out as the price for Mrs Clinton to step out of the race. His campaign has plenty of money. But would he offer her the vice-presidential nomination? That's harder to envisage.
For two months the Clintons have tried to destroy Obama with a toxic mixture of racist innuendo and flag-wagging. There's a great deal of bad blood. If Obama does invite Mrs Clinton aboard it will be because his strategists tell him it's the only way he can beat the Republican, John McCain. That case has yet to be made.
It may happen in the next few days or at a slightly later date, but Mrs Clinton will surely concede. Defeat was certainly written all over the face of her spouse, who looked ghastly yesterday, just as on the other half of the television screen Obama was already speaking in lofty and magnanimous terms about Democratic unity. He will need all the composure he can muster. The autumn campaign will be an ugly one.
It's a propitious year for the first black presidential candidate to try to win the White House. The Republican incumbent, George Bush, is widely despised. McCain is old, erratic and won't release his medical records. The economy is in awful shape and the war is unpopular. Her pro-war vote played a big role in sinking Mrs Clinton. McCain's 'war hero' status may not be the big selling point many suppose it to be. ·
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