Hillary Clinton and the Dropout Chorus

Jonathan Chait points out a Media Matters article by Eric Boehlert criticizing news organizations for their “unique push to get a competitive White House hopeful to drop out of the race.” Boehlert cites columnists, editorial pages, and our very own Hillary Deathwatch as examples of media unfairly urging Hillary Clinton to bow out.

First off, I second Chait’s confusion about why opinion journalists shouldn’t be ” taking it upon themselves to weed the presidential field by demanding one of the remaining candidates simply quit.” Here I was, thinking it was the job of opinion journalists to make unreasonable demands—and the job of readers (including candidates) to pay attention or ignore them. Secondly, I’d distinguish between “pushing” Clinton to drop out and arguing that she can’t win. We’ve exhausted who-knows-how-much server space detailing the extremely daunting metrics facing her candidacy without explicitly calling for her to exit the race. Of course, there’s the implication that, facing doom, a rational candidate would surrender. But rationality left the building long ago.

More interesting, though, is the disparity between the views of opinion journalists and everyone else. Today the New York Times slapped a chart on A1 showing that 34 percent of Americans think Hillary Clinton will win the nomination, up from 21 percent a month ago. Meanwhile, only 51 percent of voters now think Obama will win, down from 69 percent. I guess it’s not shocking that people think the race is close. It sure looks close. But that’s only if you’re looking at total numbers (say, Obama’s 14.4 million votes to Clinton’s 13.9 million) instead of margins and the number and size of remaining races. Numbers being stubborn things, Clinton can win only if she can convince superdelegates to override the pledged delegate count. (Having the popular vote on her side would help, but that number is already being sullied .) If anything, the media has done Clinton a favor in recent weeks: Judging from the way the Rev. Wright scandal has been covered, you could be forgiven for thinking Obama’s candidacy was about to crash and burn.

Perhaps Boehlert can take solace in recognizing that even if journalists are overstepping their bounds by saying Clinton can’t win, at least no one is listening to them.