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Hillary: What does she really want?

It

It’s the mystery that has the whole country guessing, said Karen Tumulty in Time. Barring a last-minute miracle, Hillary Clinton will not—repeat, not—be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. Why, then, is she still furiously campaigning? The simplest explanation is that she’s jockeying for every last vote and delegate so she has the leverage to demand that Barack Obama choose her as his running mate. Sources close to the campaign say that her husband, Bill, is, in fact, pushing for her to be vice president. The No. 2 job, he believes, will best position her for the real goal, which remains to be president someday. But Clinton’s own strategists are doubtful Obama will bring her aboard, and it’s unclear that she really wants to spend four or eight years playing second fiddle to the man who beat her. That leaves even those closest to her wondering what she’ll demand in return for surrendering. As a top Clinton strategist confessed, “I don’t know what she’s thinking.”

She’d better not count on being vice president, said Dan Payne in The Boston Globe. The “superficial logic” of an Obama-Clinton ticket is that it would heal the divisions in the party and ensure that her passionate supporters come to the polls this fall. But in reality, having Hillary on the ticket would create more problems than it would solve. Hillary’s home state, New York, is guaranteed to go Democratic with or without her, and though some Democrats adore her, she remains incredibly divisive; more than half of all voters view her unfavorably. Besides, said John Judis in The New Republic Online, when the opponent is not a black Harvard Law graduate but the white war veteran John McCain, Clinton will no longer be able to deliver “white male, working-class voters.” Nor will she help win any state—with the possible exception of Arkansas—that Obama couldn’t win on his own.

Maybe Hillary simply wants to sabotage Obama’s chances in November, said Susan Nielsen in the Portland Oregonian. By encouraging her supporters to believe that the nomination was somehow stolen from her, she is leaving Obama in a minefield. If he doesn’t offer her the vice presidential nomination, millions of Democratic women will cry, “Obama passed over a woman for a less qualified man!” That’ll cost him the election, clearing Hillary’s path to the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. To believe the Clintons want a fellow Democrat to lose to Republican McCain, of course, is to view Hillary and Bill as purely Machiavellian, without ethics or shame. “Then again, I never thought they’d have the nerve to call the Michigan vote legitimate, either.”

Perhaps Clinton’s real goal is more obvious, said Walter Shapiro in Salon.com. She’s highly competitive, and is hoping at least to emerge from the final primary with an overall popular-vote lead over Obama. Even if it takes some spin and selective vote counting to get there, Hillary wants the consolation of believing she was the people’s true choice.

But she wasn’t, said Jonathan Alter in Newsweek.com. As both candidates knew going into this campaign, delegates alone matter, and Obama has more of them. Anyway, Hillary only can amass more popular votes if you count Florida and Michigan—which would mean changing the rules retroactively. Actually, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, I think Clinton has an even more basic reason for pushing this campaign beyond the bounds of decency. She’s running because she just can’t believe she’s lost—that if she persists, somehow “the stars really still might align for her.” She’s running, in the end, because she just “can’t stop.”

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