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Hillary Clinton and the race card

May 8, 2008 |  1:24 pm

Did she, or did she not, play the "race card?"

That's the question being hashed over in much of political Washington concerning comments Hillary Clinton made to USA Today in making her case for soldiering on in her bid to draw to an inside straight and overtake Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race.

Here's the passage swirling the discussion:

" 'I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,' she said in an interview with USA Today. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article 'that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states (those voting in Tuesday's Indiana and North Carolina primaries) who had not completed college were supporting me.' "

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

Her defenders scoffed at the notion that she was sowing divisiveness, saying she was merely stating the obvious and that she resisted any mention of the almost monolithic support from blacks that has been central to Obama's successes.

Clinton herself, the article says later, "rejected any idea ...

... that her emphasis on white voters could be interpreted as racially divisive. 'These are the people you have to win if you're a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that.' ''

Detractors argued that she was taking an obvious step to casting herself as the "white" candidate.

Longtime Democratic operative Bob Shrum, who led John Kerry's unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign, said that party leaders -- including convention superdelegates -- fear that Clinton may be adopting a strategy that unnecessarily fuels antagonisms within party ranks.

The result, he added, could be a political environment "in which Democrats lose the unlosable election."

-- Don Frederick