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Hillary Clinton's camp changes its tune

March 3, 2008 |  2:04 am

Remember how Hillary Clinton and her acolytes had been trying so hard to forget all those wins Barack Obama has strung together?

Clinton chose to publicly ignore some of Obama's more impressive victories. Her aides — as well as her husband, the former president — dismissed his caucus triumphs, arguing that only a narrow slice of the electorate has the time and the inclination to participate in these gatherings.

Well, Camp Clinton late last week decided to take note that Obama put together an 11-contest winning streak and "is riding a surge of momentum." But it acknowledged his successes with this in mind: trying to raise the stakes for him (however vainly) in Tuesday's primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island.

A memo put out by the Clinton press crew noted that Obama's torrid performance has enabled him "to pour unprecedented resources" into those states. It went on: "The Obama campaign and its allies are outspending us two-to-one in paid media and have sent more staff into the March 4 states."

Here was the kicker: ...


"If he cannot win all of these states with all this effort, there's a problem."

The memo then hikes the bar even further, saying that if he doesn't "score decisive victories," it means Democrats "are having second thoughts about him as a prospective standard-bearer."

We have here a classic example of spin that ignores the basic political picture. But variations of this case, overstated though it may be, will probably be parroted by various Clinton surrogates as cable networks look to kill airtime until the votes start to trickle in Tuesday evening.

Here's the reality, which the Clintonites know full well:

  • Vermont (where Obama is heavily favored) and Rhode Island (which stacks up as Clinton turf, as this Washington Post story walks through) are sideshows. Their outcomes, for the most part, will be duly ignored.
  • Ohio and Texas are the end-all and be-all Tuesday night, and if Obama wins either — even by a narrow margin — the night will be filled with chatter about whether Clinton can continue.

— Don Frederick