Washington Matters


The Case for Clinton to Stay In


Unless she wins big in both Texas and Ohio today, the pressure on Hillary Clinton to step aside will be enormous, with party elders saying it's time for the party to unite and heal its wounds.  But unless Barack Obama wins clear victories, there's a strong case for Clinton sticking around. Democratic voters are already seeing the wisdom in that.  Maybe the elders should realize as well that a longer contest may do the party more good than harm...

Even though Clinton only has only a long-shot hope of winning the nomination because of the delegates being amassed by Obama, her presence and ever sharper pressure points -- in debates and on the campaign trail -- have and will force Obama to be a better, more defined candidate. And it will bring the more complete vetting that he needs before it's too late for the party to reconsider.

That's already happening. Clinton is finally landing some blows, and the press is taking a second look at the candidate in ways that are good for everyone involved. New questions are arising every day, and some really need to be answered. Just look at his denial that his campaign assured Canada he wasn't serious about rewriting NAFTA, a denial that earned him two Pinocchios from the Washington Post.

A unified party early on may look good for the Democrats, but perhaps it's not the best thing for the country -- or Obama. The Illinois senator, whose lack of national experience raises a constant question mark about his presidential credentials, will become more of a known quantity if Clinton keeps at it, forcing him to deliver specifics on his plans and his foreign policy agenda. Her continuing challenge to him may also reveal weak spots in his armor that are better explored sooner than later.  And clearly the press is just getting started at asking some hard questions that were put off too long.

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That's not to say Clinton should stay in no matter what. A loss in Texas or Ohio and a narrow victory in the other should send a sharp enough message that her time has come. Let's see what happens tonight. But if Clinton does fold her tent, Obama will have less reason to change his lofty rhetoric that is short on specifics. John McCain, who'll clinch the GOP nomination tonight, will increase his attacks immediately, but that's not the same as the pressure generated by an immediate fight for the nomination.

 



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