The Hillary Deathwatch
Clinton sinks beneath the waves.
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Hillary Clinton has finally announced that she will drop out—but not till Saturday. Thus Clinton departs as she campaigned, dragging it out to the last possible moment. After more than two months of daily odds-making, we sink Clinton to her final resting place of 0 percent. So it goes.
The last 36 hours felt like something out of the DSM-IV. Faced with defeat Tuesday night, Clinton gave a defiant speech with no recognition that Obama had locked up the nomination. Fans encouraged her to fight on. Late Tuesday, Clinton staffers were still spinning against the wind. Hillaryland went from professional campaign operation to alternate reality in which conventions are contested, skeletons emerge from closets, and superdelegates experience group epiphanies based on vague electability arguments.
But after Clinton held a conference call with top supporters Wednesday afternoon, things wrapped up quickly. That evening, Clinton announced she would "express her support for Barack Obama and party unity" this weekend. John McCain called Obama to congratulate him. The spin machine rested.
"What does Hillary want?" speculation still persists, even after Clinton addressed the question in her speech on Tuesday. Guesses include a vice-presidential slot, campaign-debt relief, and respect for her historic achievement. (It's unclear what this last one means. Is Obama supposed to throw her a party?) Our guess, for what it's worth: She wants to be able to say what Al Gore says—that she won the popular vote and deserved the nomination as much as Obama did. Many Americans wonder what the country would be like if Gore had won. If Obama loses in November, they'll think, what if Hillary had won? Not a bad setup for 2012.
Expect to hear lots about unity in the coming weeks. But Clinton's handling of the past two days has all but closed off the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket. And that's just one of the 78 reasons Clinton won't be veep. Obama could never run as anti-Washington yet pick the personification thereof as his second. Clinton would never be able to cede the spotlight, as VPs must. And Bill's presidential library would pose its own set of headaches, the Wall Street Journal reports today. If there were a Hillary Veepwatch, it would be hovering around 0 percent, too.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.