David Broder attempts to tackle the great unstated central problem with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He finds “an old friend working in her national campaign”, grants him total anonymity, and gets him to discuss how Clinton thinks she can win the nomination without destroying the Democratic Party.

There are a couple of nuggets in the response Broder elicited. First, the Clintons feel that they have to win Indiana.

To have a chance, the Clinton folks figure, she must win Indiana on Tuesday and do well enough to keep Obama’s lead by the end of the primaries closer to 100 than to 200. She must also find a way to get some votes counted from Michigan and Florida, whose delegations are barred from the convention for violating the party’s primary timetable.

So, even inside the Clinton campaign, they see the loss of Indiana as a knockout blow. Maybe that will motivate you to make some phone calls to the good people of Indiana over the next three days. It’s also important to realize that they are still relying on Florida and Michigan. But this nominating process is going to end before there is any resolution on seating the delegates from those two states. They will never be seated in a way that negatively impacts Obama’s chances because he won’t agree to it. So, even here, the Clintons are engaging in magical thinking.

Broder’s friend then unveils a familiar argument. The controversy over the Rev. Wright has caused some undeclared superdelegates to have some concerns and reservations about Obama’s liabilities and capability in fighting back against the familiar right-wing smear attacks. If nothing else, it has given some people enough pause to remain on the fence.

But, as my friend acknowledged, they have not yet overcome the deep discomfort many of them feel, as they contemplate taking the nomination away from Obama. They know that would break the hearts of his African-American supporters, who have been the most loyal of Democratic constituencies.

Speaking from a lifetime of experience, my friend said that under other circumstances, African-Americans would show their love for Hillary Clinton (if not so much now for her husband). But at the moment, they see her only as a threat to knock out their favorite.

It’s interesting that Broder’s friend acknowledges that the rift between the black community and Bill Clinton is worse than the rift with Hillary. I think that is probably true. But, it’s hard to see how blacks would see Hillary as less of a threat after she knocked out their favorite using a coup by superdelegates than they do now. And the Clinton campaign has an interesting answer for that.

…the Clinton camp hopes that, if he is counted out, Obama, just 46, would think about his long-term future and secure his own status as heir apparent by reconciling his followers to a bitter but temporary defeat and by throwing all his energies behind Clinton.

In effect, my friend was saying that may well be beyond Clinton’s power to win the nomination without severely damaging the party. Only Obama can make her winning seem right.

My first instinct is to laugh out loud at this prospect. But, I actually don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect that Obama would take the high road even if his nomination gets carjacked by a bunch of white superdelegates. It’s less a lack of realism that offends me than the utterly appalling gall of the Clintons to expect Obama to do all the work of repairing what they have broken.

Polling in Indiana is close, with Zogby showing Obama ahead this morning, with heavy early voting, and tons of new voters. It’s impossible to know how the state will go on Tuesday. But we certainly have an opportunity to deal a knockout blow that will eliminate the need to go through any of the painful steps the Clintons see as necessary to their securing the nomination.

If the superdelegates find Broder’s friend’s scenario plausible, they are smoking the pipe. It’s not that Clinton couldn’t conceivably beat John McCain. McCain is a terrible candidate. But Clinton will not win the nomination. And if she did, it would tear the party apart and we’d be dependent on the main victim to put the pieces back together. And even if Obama was willing and able to do that, he could never erase the sting of the theft, nor prevent severe downticket damage from depressed black turnout and decreased loyalty to the party. It’s not worth it. From an electability point of view, there is no comparison between a victorious Obama armed with legions of dedicated activists, and a shattered coalition that is dependent on a grievously wronged Obama to have any viability at all.

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