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Posted by on May 17, 2008 in Media, Politics | 6 comments

News Media Political Death Watch On Clinton Campaign Begins (UPDATED)

Campaigns like people go through life phases, and nothing can be more distressing to a candidate and his/her supporters as when journalists start reporting a political death rattle. That now seems to be the stage of the campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

You can hear the characterizations in the reports of TV news journalists and read references to it in some news reports. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported that Senator Clinton knows the race is over. But it now seems like that narrative in a campaign’s cycle has kicked in, given a report in the New York Times:

On the day Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was endorsed by the governor of North Carolina, a supporter gave her a three-foot-long balloon replica of herself, complete with blond hair, black pantsuit and wide pink smile, which Mrs. Clinton promptly took on her plane and laughingly showed off to reporters.

On Thursday, little more than two weeks later, the doll lay on the sofa by her seat on the plane, shriveled and deflated.

With her candidacy running out of time — and perhaps air — the Clinton campaign has taken on a distinctly subdued mood.

Mrs. Clinton found herself largely ignored on Friday while a battle raged between Senator Barack Obama on one hand and Senator John McCain and President Bush on the other.

This has been a week of agony and ecstasy for the Clintons – and she could face the same kind of week again.

First, she won the West Virginia primary by a whopping majority even bigger than the whopping majority by which many expected her to win. Then the agony started. Former rival John Edwards endorsed Obama, wiping follow up stories on her win from the news and talking-head cycles. Then President Bush and John McCain suggested Obama wants to appease terrorists…indicating they considered Clinton out of the picture and giving Obama an opening he used to launch a political rebuttal-offensive.

The Times details what other reporters have noted this week: a perceptible change in the Clinton campaign as it realizes — despite the spin to friendly bloggers on blogger conference calls (this site has yet to be invited to a conference call from any major candidate because we have people with differing views who write on it) — the numbers don’t add up:

Famous for her 16-hour days, her unflagging energy and her willingness to shout into a microphone until her voice gives out, Mrs. Clinton finds herself encountering long odds and a dwindling bank account. (David Letterman recently joked that with her campaign $21 million in debt, she is at “the world’s most expensive fantasy camp.”) And the new tone is palpable.

It has always been difficult for Mrs. Clinton to compete against an opponent who once received thunderous applause for blowing his nose. But as Mr. Obama seized nearly every headline in the last several days, Mrs. Clinton appeared zapped of her usual enthusiasm.

The small crowd she attracted in rural South Dakota on Thursday was quiet and polite, with none of the exuberance that usually greets Mrs. Clinton at her campaign stops. (A campaign aide suggested it could have been due to the cultural mores of South Dakotans.)

This will be a week that some contend will the last hurrah for Clinton, while others insist it won’t.

New polls indicate Clinton could win Tuesday’s Kentucky primary by a landslide and could be making big inroads in Oregon. Will she embarrass Obama again and make superdelegates think twice?

The answers are yes…and apparently no.

You can tell Clinton is having trouble with superdelegates because of the arguments she’s using.

In the call to Clinton-friendly bloggers, she argued the map and not the math was important. She also talked about the terrible vitriol aimed at bloggers who support her, particularly women bloggers. Read James Joyner HERE. (However, if you read blogs passionately written by Clinton supporters you will find they were often as angry and slashing in tone in their posts about blogs passionately written by Obama supporters. Vitriol is not been limited to one candidate– or one sex’s writers. Blogosophere vitriol is aimed at writers who don’t agree with another writer.)

Why is Clinton’s campaign continuing? The list of possibilities, probabilities and facts:

–If it continues she could raise money to help pay off her debt.

–They believe deeply that voters in remaining states should have the right to cast their votes in the primary race.

–The Clintons do reportedly believe Obama is headed for defeat (but it can be argued they see things through the prism of 1990s conventional wisdom assumptions, which may not apply in 2008).

–To be there if some new blockbuster revelation about Obama or someone close to him comes out and destroys him. There are rumors already swirling around about that. (If it turned out the Clintons were behind negative material surfacing or even widely suspected, Clinton would not win the general election due to Obama supporters’ ire).

–Because anything at all is possible until the nomination votes are counted. Former Governor Mike Huckabee even said the unmentionable when he made a joke that flopped badly about Obama being shot. (Video here).

–(Critics theory) To weaken Obama so she can pick up the Democratic party nomination pieces in 2012.

–(Supporters’ theory) To go out on a high note by deep-sixing the divisive politics epitomized by her husband Bill Clinton’s most publicized and controversial campaign appearances and turning the focus more on McCain.

Campaigns go through journalistic cycles: the candidate rises; the candidate becomes the front-runner; the front-runner stumbles; the front runner is no longer the front-runner; the front-runner makes a comeback. Then it’s whether the front runner wins or eventually fails.

But campaigns also go through life cycles.

And it’s clear that the mainstream news media — and much of the new media — increasingly believe that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is now on life support.

UPDATE: Clinton is now going after the news media, The Politico reports — partially to generate a backlash against the news media so she’ll get votes:

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is increasingly aiming its punches not at her front-running opponent Barack Obama, but at the media.

On the campaign trail, in a new ad and in her meetings with donors and superdelegates, she blasts the D.C. punditocracy for counting her out and urges anyone who’ll listen to ignore the hardening storyline that places Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee.

The goal is two-fold. Clinton, a New York senator, wants to staunch the flow of uncommitted superdelegates to Obama, an Illinois senator, by convincing them she can still win the nomination. She also wants to generate a protest vote in the four states that have yet to hold primaries, as well as in Puerto Rico.

The Clinton camp believes a media backlash drove up turnout among her supporters in West Virginia, which last week delivered a landslide 67 percent to 26 percent victory for her.