Still Fighting

Hillary Clinton’s speech tonight in Louisville was two speeches in one. On the one hand, she seemed more determined than ever to campaign through June 3, seat Florida and Michigan, and reach the “2,210” delegates necessary to win the nomination. But she was simultaneously conciliatory, repeating how she would do everything she can to help a Democrat win in November. She tempered that a bit by saying she’d “support the Democratic nominee, whoever she may be.” But even so, it’s not a pledge you make if you think you’re going to win the race.

How can she have it both ways? Easy. She’s still challenging Obama, but only on process—not on issues. She announced that she is “winning the popular vote,” but no one truly believes that’s an untainted number if you count Florida and Michigan. (Even if you don’t, it’s sketchy .) She dropped the 2,210 figure as the number of delegates needed to win the nomination, but again, she’s the only one counting that way. She still says she’s “ready, willing and able to lead,” but no longer says she’s the only such candidate.

Given this double-speak, Clinton’s goal seems to be shifting. Plan A is still to win the nomination. But Plan B is to preserve her reputation as a fighter. That means campaigning hard in the remaining states, heading to Florida tomorrow to renew calls to seat the delegation, and arguing that she’s most capable of winning the presidency. None of that will hurt Obama—and that’s exactly why it’s OK for her to continue. There’s almost a tacit agreement that Obama will focus on John McCain while Clinton maintains her “fighter” status. As long as she can achieve Plan B without permanently damaging the person she knows to be the all-but-inevitable nominee, there’s no reason to drop out. She’s been in this dozens of weeks; what’s another two?

She’s still fighting, but it’s fighting for fighting’s sake.