The soft punditry of low expectations.

Down and on the way out.
April 10 2008 3:10 PM

The Hillary Deathwatch

Clinton benefits from the soft punditry of low expectations.

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There's no other way to put it: Hillary Clinton is suffering from the soft punditry of low expectations. We explained yesterday how Hillary's chances improve if she's not actively taking damage, kind of like a first-person shooter. The corollary is that Barack Obama is like Google: He has to continually outperform expectations to keep his stockholders onboard. Treading water is not an option. So when both candidates pick up a superdelegate, the tie goes to Clinton. Factor in the $2.5 million she picked up from last night's Elton John concert, and we're giving her two-tenths of a point, bringing her to a 10.2percent chance of winning the nomination.

Today's news: Obama snagged the endorsement of Wayne Holland, the chair of the Democratic Party in Utah, while Clinton netted former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff, for a gain of one superdelegate apiece. Elton John's benefit concert for Clinton last night raised $2.5 million for her campaign, and Clinton went on the attack in Pennsylvania, airing a 60-second radio ad calling out Obama for exaggerating his refusal to take money from oil companies. The Puerto Rico newspaper El Nuevo Dia reports Clinton up in the polls by 13 percentage points in the territory, giving her some light at the end of the tunnel if she can hang on until June 1.


Meanwhile, Colin L. Powell, the first secretary of state in the Bush administration, had kind words for Obama on Good Morning America today, praising his handling of the Jeremiah Wright situation. A new Time poll puts Clinton up by six points in Pennsylvania—the same margin as in yesterday's Quinnipiac poll. Again, a significant jump for Obama from his double-digit deficit a few weeks back.

Press coverage isn't always a factor here at the Deathwatch, but it's worth pointing out a Project for Excellence in Journalism report on last week's news: "The narrative was the debate over whether it might be time for Clinton to throw in the towel in the nomination fight. It was the single biggest campaign story line, accounting for 7% of all the campaign stories last week." That's hardly a gauge of whether Clinton will drop out. But it does suggest that the press is waking up to the bleak realities of her candidacy. Even if Clinton benefits from the soft punditry of low expectations in the short term, it's bad news in the long run.

For a full list of our Deathwatches, click here. For a primer on Hillary's sinking ship, visit our first Deathwatch entry. Send your own prognostications to

Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.



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