Hillary's Structurally-flawed Strategy

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Unlike Jason, I'm actually somewhat sympathetic to Mickey Kaus's friend S., who speculated that Hillary might have done better in Ohio and Texas had she lost Wisconsin. Okay, I don't really buy that claim--Obama's momentum from Wisconsin is clearly going to help him going forward, and it would have been problem if he'd lost it, since he still faces an uphill battle in those two big March 4 states. But I do buy S.'s more modest claim--that Hillary tends to do better when voters can sympathize with her, which happens when she's losing, as opposed to when she's "arrogant and unbearable," which often happens when she wins. (My own view on this is that voters don't want Hillary to win, but they don't really want her to lose either.)

All of which makes me wonder about Hillary's latest gambit, which is apparently to get really nasty with Obama after getting only somewhat nasty in Wisconsin. Today's Times reports that Hillary shifted to attack mode almost immediately after the voting ended last night:

Mrs. Clinton wasted no time in signaling that she would now take a tougher line against Mr. Obama a recognition, her advisers said, that she must act to alter the course of the campaign and define Mr. Obama on her terms.

In a speech in Ohio shortly after the polls closed in Wisconsin, she alluded to what her campaign considers Mr. Obama’s lack of experience, and his support for a health insurance plan that would not initially seek to cover all Americans.

“This is the choice we face: One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world,” Mrs. Clinton said in the remarks, which she also planned to expand upon in a speech in New York City on Wednesday. “One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past and one of us is ready to do it again.” Mrs. Clinton did not mention the Wisconsin results; she did, however, call Mr. Obama to congratulate him on the victory.

piece just posted on the Times site adds that:

Mrs. Clinton also focused on Mr. Obama as she went on the offensive early Wednesday in a speech at Hunter College in Manhattan, charging that her rival has substituted rhetoric for practical experience.

“It is time to get real,” Mrs. Clinton, of New York, said. “To get real about how we actually win this election and get real about the challenges facing America. It’s time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions.”

It is a familiar theme, but Mrs. Clinton delivered it with fresh intensity after the crushing defeats in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday.

As I say, I think Hillary's chief asset heading into Ohio and Texas is that voters don't want to see her bounced from the race. This strategy seems uniquely designed to undercut that asset.

--Noam Scheiber

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