What is up with the Obama campaign?
Given the ostensible "insurmountable" lead that he has, given all the advantages of money, delegates, money, party leadership backing, money, fawning press coverage, money and legions of adoring fans, why are they staying so relentlessly nagative not just on Hillary, but on her entire base of support? Why the obsession with forcing her out and declaring the contest over, done, finis, kaput, no more?
Because they know it isn't.
At this point in the campaign, if his win was truly in the bag, Obama should be making a wholehearted effort to try to win over his opponent's supporters, yet the exact opposite is happening. The win in West Virginia is dismissed as simply racists voting against Obama. Bloggers loudlly trumpet how they don't need no stinkin' working class. Nothing is being offered to answer the substantive complaints about his policies or campaign style. Instead, we get Edwards whoring himself for a donations list, flatly lying that Obama's policies have anything to do with even the shadow of what he himself campaigned on. Or we get Obama mouthing off to a female reporter who tried to ask about a bread and butter issue, uncaring of how he appeared to millions of people in his arrogance.
Fear is in the air.
They know Hillary's growing support makes them look bad. They know they are hemorrhaging voters with each primary. The very astute ones know that even if they can wrest the nomination win, they are sinking for the general because money does not equal votes. If it did, Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee. So why the unrelenting hostility? Mostly because they know that they haven't won and they have boxed themselves in. Just as Obama did by race-baiting, their sneer at the hicks and the chicks mode of politics has put them between a rock and a hard place. To keep up the barrage will probably cost them votes (and the longer it goes on, the more votes will be lost), but, given her strength, if they try to be conciliatory, then she may push past them with his own wavering supporters who want to see everyone make nice.
Hillary herself is simply having fun and it does her no harm to be gracious. Even in her sharp and powerful victory speech, clearly laying out for the party and the super delegates why she is the more viable candidate in the general, Hillary repeated the message of party cohesion and identity, making clear her loyalties. Then, today, she went after Bush for his smear against Obama, demonstrating how a Democrat should speak and act when confronted by Republican mendacity. There is no conflict in her between being competitive and being a party loyalist.
When I look at Hillary and hear her talk, I am struck over and over by the incredible calm that surrounds her. She said in Texas "I'll be fine," no matter the outcome and it is unassailably true. This is someone content with who and what she is and thus can dedicate herself with joy to presenting her plan for the country.
What has vanished from her campaign, as far as I can tell, is the weight of doubt. I don't mean that they know they are going to win, but that the campaign is no longer burdened by the fear of loss or the savaging of the critics. You could see it getting chipped away after New Hampshire, more chunks dropping after Florida and Super Tuesday, a stasis in mid-February and then nothing but energy since Ohio. Whatever the outcome, Hillary is fine with it. She promotes herself, the party and, yes, even Obama, with a zest that is delightful.
The more generous and exuberant she is, the more selfish and resentful Obama's campaign becomes. It is going so far as to try to cut off funds to voices other than his own. Looked at with a cold eye, this is self-defeating behavior. So why is this happening?
To some degree, and this is more the behavior of the surrogates and hangers on than the campaign proper, they have drunk their own kool-aide and really, truly think they can create an electoral majority from Whole Foods shoppers. Within the campaign, a lot of it is political style. This is just how they operate, their mode of politics, and they will not relinquish their hatred. Mostly, though, it is recognition of the danger of the trade-offs they made in their campaign and that there is nothing they can do to prevent the contest from playing out. All they can do is try to distract.
By allowing the campaign to be personal, legitimizing the demand that "we" had to drive out a loathed "monster" opponent and her miserable supporters, the Obama camp has dug itself into a very deep hole. They appear determined to bury themselves in it.