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 Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hillary PRETENDS She Won the Nomination

  In Defeat, Clinton Graciously Pretends to Win


Dana Milbank

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"What does Hillary want?" . Hillary Clinton put the question to her supporters here Tuesday night, moments after her opponent, Barack Obama, clinched the Democratic presidential nomination.

What Hillary did NOT want to do was to concede defeat.

"I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard," she told her fans.

The campaign was over, and Obama had locked up the nomination after a flood of more than 40 superdelegates announced their support for him throughout the day.

But Clinton spoke as if she were the victor.

She and her husband and daughter took the stage, smiling, clapping and bopping to the beat. She said nothing about losing the nomination, instead thanking South Dakota for giving her a victory in Tuesday's balloting: "You had the last word in this primary season!"

Clinton congratulated Obama --NOT for winning the nomination, but for running an "extraordinary race."

She recognized Obama and his supporters "for all they accomplished."

It was an extraordinary performance by a woman who had been counted out of the race even when she still had a legitimate chance. Now she had been mathematically eliminated -- and she spoke as if she had won.

Though some might think her remarks self-delusional, Clinton wasn't kidding herself; earlier in the day, Clinton had told lawmakers privately that the race was over and she would consider being Obama's vice president.

Her public defiance reflected a shift in the balance of power that came with Obama's victory.

Now that he had won the race, he would need to woo Clinton if he wanted to prevail in November.

"Obama has work to do," the outspoken Clinton adviser Lanny Davis told reporters in the hallway outside the gymnasium here. "Senator Clinton can't do it for him."

It was the beginning of a day-long water torture for Clinton, as Obama aimed, by day's end, to reach the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

The rush of the opportunistic superdelegates toward the inevitable nominee only worsened what was certain to be an unhappy day for the Clintons, who had arrived at their Westchester home at about 3 a.m. after an awkward last day of campaigning in South Dakota.

Bill Clinton had flown into a rage and called a reporter a "scumbag."

At her last event in South Dakota, Hillary had lost her voice in a coughing fit. Somebody had seen fit to play an inappropriate John Fogerty tune before she took the stage: "It ain't me, it ain't me. I ain't no fortunate one."

Terry McAuliffe, the campaign chairman, took the stage and read the full list of Clinton's victories, from American Samoa to Massachusetts. Introducing Clinton, he asked: "Are you ready for the next president of the United States?"

This brought laughter from the reporters in the back of the room, but Clinton induced the crowd to boo the "pundits and naysayers" who would have run her from the race. "I am so proud we stayed the course together," she told her backers, who interjected cries of "We believe in you!" and "Yes, we will!"

Only obliquely did Clinton refer to the fact that she had, in fact, lost the nomination. "The question is: Where do we go from here?" she said. She would figure that out "in the coming days," she said, but "I will be making NO decisions tonight."

She referred her supporters to her Web site, as she had after many a primary night victory.

For a candidate who had just LOST the nomination, she seemed very much in charge. That must be what Hillary wants.

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