What Does Hillary Want?

Election '08

I was talking to some friends early last night, and they asked what I expected Hillary Clinton to do and say when she took the stage in NYC. At that point, it was already clear that Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination, so it was really a matter of how Clinton would handle the end of a long, difficult process, and how Clinton would address coming this close to winning, before finishing just shy of her goal.

I was actually pretty confident that I knew exactly what Clinton would do. Just a few hours earlier, campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s right hand man and enthusiastic surrogate, told a national television audience that once Obama reaches the magic number of 2,118 delegates, Clinton will “congratulate him and call him the nominee.” Well, Obama had reached and passed the threshold. The race was over. It was easy to imagine Clinton going out on a high note, reminding everyone of her class and dignity, and taking the initial steps to heal some wounds, rebuild some bridges, and bring like-minded allies back together.

But if Clinton has proved anything over the last 16 months of campaigning, it’s that she’s a fighter. And last night, the lights may have gone out on her presidential chances, but her drive to keep going anyway remains strong. Indeed, last night, Clinton’s remarks weren’t conciliatory, they were defiant.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took the stage before supporters Tuesday night and finally asked the question that so many people had been posing: “What does Hillary want?”

She listed some policy goals and demanded respect for her supporters. But she did not really answer her own question, demurely suggesting instead that it was up to her backers to advise her by e-mail on what she should do next.

What the crowd gathered at Baruch College in Manhattan for her final primary night celebration wanted was clear, from those outside chanting “Denver, Denver,” urging her to go all the way to the party’s convention in August, to those inside interrupting her speech with shouts of “Yes, she will! Yes, she will!”

And while Mrs. Clinton reminisced about her campaign and talked of a need to unite the party, she did not concede, and indeed did not acknowledge that her rival, Senator Barack Obama, had passed the threshold of delegates needed to secure the nomination.
She personally posed the question: “What does Hillary want?” But once her speech was over, the answer to the inquiry was less than clear.

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