International Papers

Fight Club

The international press smells blood in the Democratic primaries.

Hillary Clinton

It seems Tuesday’s dramatic primaries were being watched as closely abroad as they were at home. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s wins in Ohio and Texas prompted the international press to trowel on the sports metaphors—mixed and otherwise.

In a report for the London Times breathlessly headlined, “Obama left winded as crowds roar Clinton back off the ropes and into the race,” Tony Baldwin wrote:

Her campaign has reinvented itself as that of an underdog: hard-working, ready for a scrap, resentful and with a mean streak running through it. … Mr Obama must still be the favourite to win in the end, but he may have to limp over the finishing line looking over his shoulder at a Clinton campaign that smells blood. He has weaknesses. And she will relish finding them.

“The word ‘decisive’ should now be banned from coverage of the Democratic primary race over the coming weeks,” declared Alex Spillius in the DailyTelegraph. “At every turn it has been expected that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will emerge as the overwhelming favourite to secure the nomination.” And at every turn, those expectations have been upset. “Mrs Clinton proved that she is at her best when she is down. She needed to win Ohio and Texas and did so by throwing every conceivable punch at her opponent, including a couple below the belt.”

Edward Luce of the Financial Times said: “Hillary Clinton promised last week to throw the ‘kitchen sink’ at Barack Obama and it worked. … The lesson from Tuesday—as it was from ‘Super Tuesday’ a month ago—is that Democratic voters remain almost evenly and passionately divided between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama.” And from Hong Kong, the Asia Times’ Muhammad Cohen complained, “America had its chance to anoint Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday, and America blinked. Possibly because of all the mud Hillary Clinton’s campaign flung in its eyes.”

In Britain’s Guardian, Michael Tomasky warned, “Clinton partisans should keep some perspective here. The delegate count is still strongly against her. The math is the math is the math. It is almost/virtually/essentially/fundamentally impossible for her to win the battle of pledged delegates. … Part of the reason for a primary season is to see if the nominee can take punches and get back up. So now Obama will presumably endure that baptism.”

 “The Comeback Kid keeps coming back and back, at least in her mind and those of her supporters,” wrote John Ibbitson in Canada’s Globe and Mail, but Hillary’s performance in Tuesday’s primaries just doesn’t signify: “Bottom line: There isn’t a convincing scenario that ends with Ms. Clinton winning, no matter what Ohio might say.” And in light of John McCain’s now-unchallenged path to the Republican nomination, an internal fight is something the Democrats can’t afford: “So whether or not last night was a moral, tactical or even real victory for Hillary Clinton, it came at a cost, for her own prospects and those of her party.”

“One has to wonder at this stage,” notedSlate columnist Christopher Hitchens in the British tabloid the Daily Mirror, “whether Senator Obama and his children’s crusade completely appreciated that this is the way it would play out, but then their own actual delegate count is not immediately affected by last night’s events. What may be affected is their blissful sense that it would all be one long peace-and-love cakewalk to the nomination.”

An apparently prescient Richard Adams, writing in the Guardian, proposed a solution to the bloodbath: pair the battling Democrats as running mates. He acknowledged that the plan is not without risks. “One danger is that a Clinton-Obama ticket could be the worst of both worlds, gluing together the motivating force of Clintonophobia among Republicans and the barely-disguised racist repetition of Barack Hussein Obama. Perhaps. But in fact the worst of all possible worlds is the current reality: the Democratic party’s two leading assets battling each other to the death.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Independent of South Africa reported on reaction to Obama’s losses: ” ‘We feel bad, but we all hope he will succeed in the end,’ carpenter George Oduor, 25, said in Kogelo, the small village northwest of Kisumu town that was home to Obama’s late father. ‘We don’t want Hillary,’ he said as children headed to class at the nearby Senator Obama Secondary School.” And Obama’s half-sister ultimately sounds like a member of the international press: ” ‘Barack’s done extremely well and we’re very proud of him,’ Auma Obama said when asked for a reaction to the losses on Tuesday. ‘This is like a football match. The game continues.’ “