Yes, Hillary Clinton is hitting the campaign trail for Barack Obama. Yet evidence abounds that her supporters aren’t buying her latest good-trooper routine. And if you didn’t know better you’d think Bill Clinton blew a few “dog whistles” (those subliminal messages Republicans are always accused of transmitting to their followers) in his interview in which he expressed how distressing it is to be labeled a racist and in which he essentially ducked the “Is Obama qualified?” question.
It is an open question how many of these ex-Hillary Clinton supporters are really going to defect. But in addition to anecdotal evidence there are bits of polling data which suggest that it may not be insignificant. And coincidentally or not, the recent messages which the McCain camp has been sharpening (e.g., Obama is an empty suit and egomaniac; he throws the race card when the heat is on; Obama isn’t a qualified commander-in-chief) are precisely the sorts of appeals that may resonate with the Hillary Clinton voters.
In some sense the aggrieved Clinton phenomenon may be a great leveler. Democrats have swelled their voting rolls and energized the base with a robust primary battle. But if a chunk of those voters (Hillary Clinton reminds us that 18 million of them voted for her) stay home or vote for McCain then that huge numbers advantage for the Democratic nominee is reduced. But let’s see how everyone feels in the fall. Time has a way of healing wounds. But not always.