Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Democratic Presidential Primary is Not a College Basketball Game

Last night Kansas beat Memphis for the NCAA Division One basketball championship. In this game Memphis lead by 9 points, 60-51, with 2:12 left. Kansas was able to close this gap because Memphis couldn’t make foul shots down the stretch. Tying the game as time ran out Kansas was able to win in overtime.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters want us to believe they are Kansas. Yes they are behind. Yes time is running out. But they are still within striking distance of winning. Why should they not be given the chance to win? Unfortunately for them they Democratic Party primary process is not a college basketball game. They simply cannot stage a comeback. At least not at a price either they or the party should be willing to pay.

If they had hit their foul shots Memphis would have won the game. If they had been able to trade baskets with Kansas Memphis would have won the game. Unfortunately for Hillary “trading baskets” is about all she can hope for down the stretch in the primary campaign. The proportional delegate allocation rules adopted by all the state Democratic parties insure this. Hillary simply cannot win big enough in the remaining primaries to make significant delegate gains on Obama. The system is set up to prevent this.

There is no way Hillary can prevent this outcome without hurting her chances in the general election campaign. She cannot afford to alienate Obama’s supporters. But in order to win the remaining primaries by margins large enough to gain on Obama’s delegate lead she must do exactly that. Showing she would make a better candidate or president simply is not going to be enough. She has to show Obama is another McGovern or Mondale, a candidate who has no hope of winning anywhere. Hillary can win only by destroying Obama as a presidential candidate. But his supporters are not likely to forgive her for doing this. So in destroying Obama she is destroying herself.

And this is one difference between the Democratic primaries and a college basketball game. Kansas doesn’t have to worry about the support Memphis fans give its team later on. Hillary does have to worry about the support Obama’s supporters will give her later on. In the general election Hillary will need his support and theirs. Yet she cannot get to the general election unless she does things certain to alienate both him and them. A “catch 22” situation boding no good for the future of Hillary’s campaign.

Furthermore the party needs to get on with the general election campaign as soon as possible. This is another difference between the Democratic primaries and a college basketball game. Extending the game by fouling ones opponent may very will give the trailing basketball team victory. It obviously worked for Kansas. But the Democrats need this campaign to be over so their candidate presumptive, Barack Obama, can take on the Republican’s candidate presumptive, John McCain. The party cannot afford to have this campaign extended simply because Hillary hopes to stage a comeback. I realize quitters never win and winners never quit. In sports this works quite well. But the Democrats need Hillary to quit so the party can get on with its main task, defeating the Republicans lead by John McCain.

Political pundits like sports analogies. Seeing the Democratic primary contest as an athletic contest is satisfying to them. Unfortunately it is not. To see it so is misleading. In this case it misleads people into believing Hillary should be given a change to comeback and win. It is difficult to see how she can stage a comeback and damaging to the party for her to do so. This is why so many people are urging her to quit.