Dan Conley, who served as an aide to former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, posted a must-read article at Salon this past Thursday (h/t jrootham @ BnR) detailing how any future concessions by the Clinton campaign might play out. Using Wilder’s departure from the 1994 Virginia senate race as an example, Conley calmly outlines what could potentially be involved in any backroom negotiations between the two prospective Democratic presidential nominees:
So if, eventually, Hillary Clinton does the math that the rest of the world is doing and decides to fold her hand, she could learn a great deal from Doug Wilder’s negotiations back in 1994. Get your own money back. Don’t worry so much about everyone else; they knew what they were getting into. Get a big symbolic victory that will show that the race was about something more than your ego. And keep in the game long term by promoting a supporter for a future role.
So if she does concede defeat, the question “What does Hillary want?” should have some fairly obvious answers.
Debt Relief. Here’s an irony: Hillary can keep lending money to her campaign, at least in the short term, without much risk because it’s very likely that Obama will agree to pay it in exchange for peace. There are limits to Obama’s generosity, of course. Money used for negative attacks from here on out would put her debt repayment at risk.
A Major Platform Win. Namely, healthcare. Hillary needs to be able to make the case that her campaign had a substantive impact on the race. The best way to do that is to get to write the party’s healthcare plank in the platform. If Obama folds on the mandate issue, Hillary walks away with a policy win. Plus, this would please John and Elizabeth Edwards. Choosing Elizabeth to write the healthcare plank of the platform could appease both camps.
Without question, Barack Obama is entering a very uncomfortable stage of his campaign. Comparisons to Mike Dukakis in 1988 are inevitable — and if the negotiations drag out, there will be questions about who is really in charge. The sooner he gets it over with, the better for him.
Well, Conley is nothing if not prescient. From today’s NY Times:
Clinton advisers say attacks on Mr. Obama are no longer enough to change the momentum or the outcome of the nomination race. So continuing to attack him on the campaign trail, at this point, would probably inflict more long-term harm on Mrs. Clinton than on Mr. Obama, her advisers said.
Mr. Obama made his own peace offering to the Clinton camp, albeit a tactical one, suggesting he would be open to helping her retire her campaign debt. “I’d want to have a broad-ranging discussion with Senator Clinton about how I could make her feel good about the process and have her on the team moving forward,” he said. “But as I said, it’s premature right now. She’s still actively running, and we’ve still got business to do right here in Oregon and in other states.”
The tonal change in Mrs. Clinton’s campaigning away from sharp engagement with Mr. Obama could reflect cold political calculation: with elements of the party now coalescing around him, her own political legacy may be at stake in the few weeks remaining before primary voting comes to a close on June 3.
At a children’s hospital in Portland on Friday, Mrs. Clinton did not refer to Mr. Obama by name but drew a sharp contrast between her plan for universal health care and Mr. Obama’s less inclusive plan: “How can anyone run for Democratic nominee for president and not have a universal health care plan? This is a huge, huge difference and one I feel passionately about.”
Bill Carrick, a longtime Democratic campaign consultant who is neutral but who has close ties to many in the Clinton inner circle, said, “She’s very, very sensitive to the position she’s in now.” He added: “Definitely as she campaigns in these upcoming states she will stress her commitment to the Democratic Party and the stakes in the fall. She’s clearly sending a message to those voters that it’s in their interest to support the party in the fall, whoever the nominee is.”
Despite general consensus that the math is stacked against her (though even Obama admits that the nomination is far from locked up) I don’t believe for a second that, by staying in the race, Senator Clinton is deliberately attempting to sink the good ship Democrat (along with its soon-to-be-chosen Captain) under the weight of her unnatural and double plus ungood ambition (sigh). Rather, it seems apparent that she’s pragmatically attempting to put herself in a strong position to work with Obama so she can achieve certain concessions. In other words, all part of, as Conley puts it, “building a lasting peace” via “that most underrated of campaign rituals– the post-campaign negotiation.”
If Clinton did eventually accept Obama’s offer of debt relief, and were Obama to adopt Clinton’s (IMO) superior health care platform, the Democratic Party could (theoretically) march into Denver fully unified and girded for battle in the general (assuming Clinton’s “hard working white people” gaffe doesn’t spark civil conflict beyond the limited borders of the blogosphere). Then maybe, just maybe, certain overzealous members of Blogtopia’s Obama wing will finally get over their increasingly hyperbolic Clinton Derangement Syndrome. And for god’s sake, stop treating Andrew “ZOMG SHE’S NORMA DESMOND!!!11one” Sullivan like he’s a serious pundit.
Related: Robert Farley fires some serious meta up yer ass re: the tedious online rift between so-called “Clintonistas” and “Obamamaniacs”.