Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hillary's PA speech

Some thoughts on Hillary Clinton's victory speech from Philadelphia:

  • Clinton's line, "The tide is turning" was a clear signal to pundits and superdelegates (and fundraisers) alike: She's not going anywhere anytime soon.
  • Inexplicably, Clinton used this opportunity to pledge that in her administration, America would "end the war on science" and renew its commitment to research. Federal funding for stem cell research hasn't been one of the top issues of this campaign, so it's unclear why she would take this opportunity to reiterate her position on this. Maybe it's inside baseball for Pennsylvanians and there was some reason for her to bring it up here. But if not, in my opinion, it was unnecessary. But then again, Clinton is a non-starter with people who care about sanctity of life issues; maybe she thought she had nothing to lose by poking them in the eye -- and she's likely right.
  • Overall, I thought this was a decent speech. She was strong without being strident; she was determined without being belligerent. She struck the right balance to match the argument she is making to superdelegates behind the scenes.
  • One notable absence from her speech: Traditional niceties to her opponent. It's standard fare for the winner to congratulate the loser, a sort of "good game" from one candidate to the other when all the votes have been cast. Clinton left that out. She did talk about Obama, but only in vague terms ("my opponent") and how she was outspent 3 to 1. It's interesting to keep this in mind when you hear Clinton's talking heads -- notably, Paul Begala -- talking about how she doesn't need to drop out because the extended campaign is so good for the party. The rowdy crowd (incidentally, did they have an open bar at that event or something? That crowd was out of control) booed Obama. Keep that in mind the next time you hear this business about how party faithful will kiss and make up after the convention: Don't count on it.
  • Pundits note that almost right away, right after Clinton thanked the people of Pennsylvania for delivering the victory, she asked them to deliver something else: money. She told them that the fate of her campaign depended on them and asked them to go to her web site and send money to keep her going. This is an ominous admission from a candidate: She finally seems to have found her message footing, but the money is drying up. She can't compete down the home stretch without more gas in the tank. But will Democrats find campaign gas -- contributions -- just as costly as the gas they're paying dearly for at the pump? We'll find out over the next couple of days. Begala noted on CNN that Clinton's campaign is already reporting that it has raised $500,000 in the few hours since the polls in Pennsylvania have closed.

On a personal note, I'd just like to express my relief that the Pennsylvania leg of this campaign is over, because if I had to hear Hillary Clinton talk about her grandfather who used to work in the lace mills in Scranton one more time, I would have to ... well, let's just say that the People's Elbow comes to mind.

Finally, staffers choreograph these parties very carefully, and they frequently use candidates' entrance and exit music to deliver certain messages to the public. Tonight, Hillary Clinton took the stage to Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down," whose lyrics include these:
Well, I won't back down; no, I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down
Hey, Howard: Regarding that aspirin, you might want to stock up. Take two (more) and repeat after me: "It's good for the party. It's good for the party. It's good for the party ..."