According to conventional wisdom Barak Obama agreed, for the sake of party unity, that Hillary Clinton should be “put into nomination” at the Denver Convention, on the understanding that when nominated, and before the first roll call, she would release her delegates to him and urge them to vote for him. That, apparently, is how it’s supposed to happen next Tuesday evening. But is that the way it will happen?
The key to understanding what could actually happen is in the fact that Hillary did not withdraw from the race. She announced only that she was “suspending” her campaign.
At the time one or two (perhaps more) of the most thoughtful American commentators wondered aloud why she had refrained from saying that she was withdrawing from the race. The point made, quite properly and fairly, was that the word “suspension” carries the connotation that the hiatus is temporary. “Suspended” players in sports, for example, return to play after their period of suspension. In Hillary’s case one possible implication was that she was hoping that something would turn up between June and the convention in Denver to allow her to resume the fight on the floor there.
The something that has turned up, thanks mainly to Obama’s apparent inability to develop his early promise and come on strong, is that Senator McCain is ahead in the polls. One could say there are many reasons why that ought not to have happened but it has happened.
The day after the release of the poll findings indicating that McCain was five points ahead, I received telephone calls from an extremely well informed American friend telling me that Hillary was in the process of putting the finishing touches to her strategy to take Obama out at the convention. The friend named the four key people who were preparing the ground for the putsch, including the lady who is acting as Hillary’s eminence grise. (The latter is a very powerful lady with loads of money).
If my friend’s information is correct, the following is the scenario that will be played out next Tuesday evening, prime time. When she is nominated, Hillary will not realease her delegates to Obama and will say words to the effect that circumstances have changed, and it’s now clear that only she can guarantee to win the White House for the party. Whether or not she herself would go as far as challenging Obama to release his delegates to her is not something my friend was prepared to speculate about. He said he thought that aspect of the matter had not yet been determined. He also said it was more than reasonable to assume that enough delegates would be prepared to dump Barak and give Hilary victory on the convention floor if they were persuaded that he was, or was most likely to be, a loser.
My American friend’s information may or may not reflect the reality of what Hillary is up to in the final countdown to the convention. I have no way of knowing from my side of the pond (I live in the UK). But I am still intrigued by her refusal in June to say that she was withdrawing from the race. And I note what was said to me when I ran my friend’s Denver scenario past a former American congressman who knows better than most how the game, dirty tricks and all, is played. He said: “It’s a remote possibility but not impossible. The Clintons don’t take prisoners and play for keeps.”.
We’ll soon know.
Before I decided to write this piece, I watched a short YouTube video of Hillary in conversation with some of her most zealous supporters. All women. It starts with one of them asking her if she would consider having her name put into nomination at the convention. She replies: “That’s an obvious question and we are working on it….” The clip ends with another lady saying that she was a delegate and was aware that some of those who had been committed to Obama had signed a statement to indicate that they would switch to Hillary if she was put into nomination at the convention. I had the quite strong impression that this last speaker in the clip was a plant – to convey a message for Hillary that she herself did not want to speak.