Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hillary's high stakes

Remember our recent discussion about expectations? The higher they are, the harder they are to meet.

Hillary Clinton knows that full well, and the results of tonight's contests have all but been eclipsed by the statements from her campaign that no matter what happens tonight, she intends to stay in the race at least through April 22 and the Pennsylvania primaries.

Clinton and her surrogates made no bones over the past two weeks about the absolute critical nature of these primaries to the survival and continuance of her campaign. Most media outlets and pundits agreed, saying that if tonight's contests resulted in anything other than wins -- and big wins, at that -- for Clinton, the delegate math would simply be too much for her to overcome. Articles like this from the Cincinnati Enquirer and louder calls for Clinton to get out of the race if she doesn't show well tonight, most notably from former Democratic candidate and potential VP pick Bill Richardson, have been popping up with increasing frequency.

But as March 4 drew closer, the campaign stepped away from the all-or-nothing perspective they had on the outcomes tonight, and the Clinton machine has been in overdrive, pumping out this message to anyone who will listen (and even to some who won't): We're not going anywhere.

A couple of examples of how Clinton has tried to spread the word include chief strategist Mark Penn pointing out that there are 16 more contests to go after today and Clinton herself telling supporters (and, perhaps, more importantly, fundraisers) that she's "just getting warmed up."

As voters head to the polls in four states (oh yeah, Rhode Island and Vermont also vote today), just in case things don't go her way tonight, Hillary Clinton has tried to answer the dreaded campaign viability question before reporters and pundits have a chance to ask it.