Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hillary's End Of The Road

The misery is almost over. Hillary Clinton swept the Puerto Rico primary today, for what that's worth. Now there are just two states left - South Dakota and Montana, both of which are expected to be wins for Barack Obama.

The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg wrote this touching obituary of the Clinton campaign:

"...A lifetime's worth of ambitions, 16 years of acquaintances in the Democratic party establishment, 16 grinding months of rallies and debates, and $215m (£108m) in campaign funds, all now are exhausted.

So too was Clinton. Her face as she took the stage at the Pine Ridge reservation was drained of colour. People took pictures anyway. Those old enough to remember are still talking about the late Robert F Kennedy's visit to this remote outpost during the 1968 campaign.

They were already talking about Clinton's campaign in the same way: history. "I'm just curious to see her in person," said Beverly Tuttle, a grandmother from nearby Porcupine. That was as far as it went. Tuttle was voting for Obama. "I'm looking at her more like a celebrity than candidate," she said.

Clinton still has ardent supporters, even in a remote location such as Kyle (population 1,000). They just have been swifter than she has in recognising defeat. "She should be vice-president," said Tangerine LeBeau, who is just 18 and will be voting for the very first time.

Strength and resolve can only carry Clinton so far. Obama has powerful backers in the west. Tom Daschle, a South Dakota native who was once Senate majority leader, was one of Obama's earliest supporters. Obama's deputy campaign manager is also from South Dakota.

Despite the courtship by the Clintons, Obama was endorsed by the entire tribal leadership of South Dakota, and was adopted as a son of the Crow tribe in Montana. Obama also has the money to pour resources into South Dakota and Montana. Clinton's coffers are beyond empty. Her campaign, now $20m in debt, has no money for the prime venues that she favoured in the early months of the campaign. Almost all of her campaign events are held outdoors despite unpredictable weather. At one rally, Clinton's only stage prop was a giant cottonwood tree.

She has little money to get voters to the polls - a huge liability on the reservations where poverty and long distances depress turnout. Clinton also has little money for advertising. Her first television ad in South Dakota went on air less than a week ago. The ad, despite her own insolvent campaign, attacks President George Bush for running up the national debt.

Her entourage on the campaign trail is similarly shrunk. Her assistant, Huma Abedin, once deemed so glamorous she was given a Vogue photospread, remains along with a couple of other aides. News outlets have scaled back their coverage. Camera crews once used to jostling for positions on risers now have yards of space to themselves.

But it's possible to forget all of that, even in a modest crowd. At the end of her big rally in South Dakota last week, Clinton worked the rope line long after people had dispersed, stretching out to every last hand, unwilling to let go."

Despite all the reasons Hillary has given her opponents to dislike her, distrust her, perhaps for some even despise her, it is both touching and sad to watch her play out these final days. It's also just a bit painful to have to observe the spectacle.

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