The evidence is overwhelming that Barack Obama will be the nominee. We are entering the stage where clearly devoted supporters are quietly urging Hillary Clinton to think about leaving the race. Yes, there are good reasons to remain and some good advice to help her carry on–if she could look forward to some great opportunity to upset Obama’s momentum. But that, I think, has already passed, or never happened. So on she plods, but the race is over. Come May 20 when Oregon votes (or May 31 when the DNC settles the delegate dispute over Michigan and Florida, or June 3 when the primaries end) it will officially be over.
Along the way she earned the respect of unlikely critics–from the Clinton-hating Maureen Dowd to various Republicans. She earned it through her sheer force of will, her determination to transform herself into a working-class champion and to bludgeon anyone in her way. (Not exactly the “new politics” everyone says they like.)
And that may be part of her odd legacy: to disprove the theory that you can rise above politics, float on clouds of rhetoric, and appeal to everyone’s better selves. What she showed is you have to go out and beat your opponent. Obama, in order to win, had to get off his pedestal, delve into policy, knock her around on trustworthiness concerns, and remind voters that for all his faults, she had more.
So it’s little wonder John McCain can’t conceal his admiration for Hillary. (Who else is as tenacious? Who else fights on despite the catcalls from the party’s base?) But he’d be wise to learn some of the lessons she absorbed too late: out-organize the opposition, get a change message, and establish rapport with those Reagan Democrats. (And, of course, never take Bill Clinton out in public. But McCain, lucky for him, won’t have that problem.)