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January 7, 2008
Endgame: Will Hillary quit the race? (updated)
The prospect of a ringing defeat in New Hampshire has led to speculation that Hillary Clinton soon will fold up her tent and abandon the quest that has animated most of her adult life. I don't buy it. Not now.
I see a slightly different scenario playing out. But then again, I am prone to a certain amount of wishful thinking when it comes to the fate of the former First Lady/junior Senator from New York.
Robert Schrum speculates that Hillary may be running out of money:
I am not nearly as wired-in to Team Clinton as Schrum, but I have never noticed a weakness in the fund-raising department when it comes to the Clintons. They know how to lean on the moneybags. In the worst instance, a personal loan to the campaign from the ample Clinton coffers could keep her in the race until the February primaries. I would love to hear the conversation between the loving couple when Hill asks Bill to co-sign the loan, though.
It is probably true that more members of the Clinton machine, political pros who may see a looming post-Clinton era and want to have a career in it, may be contemplating jumping ship. So the question becomes what would Hillary do about defectors, especially those who join the Obama surge?
If the past is any guide, pressure will be brought to bear. No need to specify what kind of pressure it might be, but the Clinton machine has long demonstrated an ability to keep its own house in order when it comes to protecting secrets and supporting the boss.
Which raises the interesting possibility of insiders spilling their guts in retaliation for the retaliation they have received after jumping ship. There are a lot of people who have observed the Clintons in a lot of trying circumstances. If it truly looks like the SS Clinton has taken on water, is listing and about to sink, then the floodgates could open.
It is too soon to actually predict a Wagnerian Götterdämmerung, but neither can one be ruled out as a pure fantasy.
For now, that mere possibility will do quite nicely. All of a sudden, Hillary has become my candidate of hope for change.
Hat tip: Clarice Feldman
Just heard the tearing-up speech and agree with Rush that it was a strategized move, intended to evoke sympathy.
She's long been told she needs to humanize herself, so that voters can connect with her. She is also known to have charmed plenty of people in high level small gatherings. Robert Shrum wrote today:
I see that charm-emitting small group sub-personality as another contrivance, too. Hillary has a number of distinctly different modes of behavior, appropriate to her goals and circumstances. Someone like Shrum would see Hillary's passionate and vulnerable side as the "real Hillary" whereas I see it as another behavioral modality, used mostly on people she needs to cultivate. It is a private side, which makes it seem real to those experiencing it.
But there are other private sides: the unimportant staff, treated coldly; and of course, the private side with Bill. We hear of the stormy, foul-mouthed raging arguments because they are so audible. But who knows what else?
Clarice Feldman emails me: "Edwards' guy Joe Trippi says she is out of money--she had $35 million in Oct and is spending $20 a month. For what it's worth."
That is an incredible cash burn. So she will have to cut back drastically if she stays in the race. She operated regally because she believed in her own inevitability. That is too much to raise suddenly.
Maybe she is smart enough to see the handwriting on the wall. Nothing like firing a lot of insiders to generate bad press.
IF she does pull the plug and wants to stay in politics as a Senator, she needs to handle this with dignity, and undoubtedly is aiming for sympathy. Tearing-up but keeping control could be the first step in withdrawing.
The Götterdämmerung remains a fantasy.