Clinton's RFK comment won't do lasting damage because there's not much left to damage.

Down and on the way out.
May 27 2008 1:54 PM

The Hillary Deathwatch

Clinton's RFK comment won't do lasting damage because there's not much left to damage.

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Hillary Clinton's ill-advised invoking of RFK's assassination might have damaged her campaign if there were anything left to damage. Meanwhile, Obama closes in on the current magic number of 2,026, bringing Clinton's odds of winning the nomination to 0.5 percent.

On the list of campaign no-nos, hinting at the possibility of your opponent being shot is up there. Yet that's what some people thought Hillary meant when she told the editorial board of the Sioux Falls, S.D., Argus-Leader that Democratic nominations often extend into June: "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."

The New York Post led the way, blaring, "Hillary Raises Assassination Issue." Drudge quickly followed. The Washington Post fronted the story, albeit less sensationally. But little consideration was given to what Clinton meant. (Watch the video and draw your own conclusions.) Never mind that she had said the same thing to Time back in March and no one noticed. Never mind that her calendar argument is misleading in the first place: Her husband may not have mathematically secured the nomination until June, but he was the presumptive nominee in March; RFK was still campaigning in June because the primary calendar started so late. The focus was on the "assassination" comparison. "We  have seen an X-ray of a very dark soul," opined the Daily News' Michael Goodwin. That or a very click-hungry media.

Luckily for Clinton, the "news" broke late Friday and appears to have run its course. The downside: She's nowhere to be found in today's top stories.

Meanwhile, the delegate count is the closest thing Clinton has to a death clock. Obama picked up six more superdelegates over the weekend, mostly add-ons from state conventions. Clinton got one. Today Obama nabs a Wyoming super, bringing his total count to 1,975.5, according to NBC, or 50.5 delegates away from the 2,026 needed to win the nomination. (Hence the 0.5 percent, according to our new formula.) But that magic number is likely to shift after this weekend, when the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee decides whether—or, more likely, how—to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations. If the outcome heavily favors Clinton (as this proposal would), it could turn Puerto Rico into Clinton's Last Stand.

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

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.


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