Did her gender hurt or help her? Did she run a lousy campaign? Did she assume front-runner status too blithely and therefore doom her own chances?
Although I have blogged on many of these issues throughout the past few months, I have a few more thoughts. First, in response to the question whether Hillary Clinton ran a lousy campaign, I gained a snippet of information on Friday that changes my view of things. At first blush the answer is yes, she did run a weak campaign, for two reasons. She seemed to ignore the caucus states and focus almost exclusively on the bigger primary states, where she did quite well. And she and her husband made wacky remarks about race issues that seemed to come from nowhere and did nothing but damage her image.
But guess what: On the first point at least, a friend who fundraised intensely for Sen. Clinton told me on Friday the campaign did not purposefully ignore the primary states. This friend said the Clinton campaign was unable to raise enough money to run seriously in the caucus states and made a pointed decision to target primary rather than caucus states.
This also explains why another campaign source told me Clinton's staffers were "completely overwhelmed" by the number of young voters who turned out for Sen. Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses. To that I would like to add, based on what I've heard from Clinton supporters at caucuses in Washington state, Texas, and Nevada, the caucuses themselves were frequently unruly and unmanageable, with much larger crowds in attendance than expected. Since caucus votes are taken by raising one's hand (in many states) rather than by submitting a written or digital ballot, vote counts can easily be inaccurate.
Clearly Clinton made some serious errors in judgment, as did her husband. Their racially insensitive remarks leave one scratching one's head, trying to decide what the heck prompted them to make such divisive statements (on LBJ, Martin Luther King, and Jesse Jackson.) Then again, Obama's uttered his share of racial gaffes, too.
I'd also like to point out that an African-American male made it into the U.S. House of Representatives some 46 years before the first woman was elected to the House. Joseph Rainey of South Carolina was elected during Reconstruction in 1870. Jeanette Rankin from Montana did not win election to the House until 1916. Their portraits hang just a few feet apart from each other in the U.S. Capitol.
Does that mean women will have to wait another 50 years before a woman is elected president? Who the heck knows? But it does feel as if there's a rising tsunami of anger among women who wanted to see Clinton in the White House next year. From Sunday's Washington Post:
There's just been an attitude that if you aren't voting for Barack Obama, then you're a racist," said [Kathleen] Cowley, 49, a mother of four from Massachusetts who has vowed to never back the senator from Illinois.
Cowley is right. If Obama doesn't let Sen. Clinton bow out on her own terms, he'll drive even more of her supporters into the McCain camp than have already told pollsters that is precisely where they're headed.
By Bonnie Erbe