Ignore everything you hear on cable talk shows. This is what will happen, and why.
First, sometime between the days after the Pennsylvania primary and the days after North Carolina and Indiana, Hillary Clinton will drop out of the presidential campaign, endorse Obama, and watch her stature among Democrats and independents soar.
Second. The campaign is over. Period. The only way that Hillary can win is, to quote a former Louisiana governor, if Barack Obama gets caught in bed with a live man or dead woman. Nothing is impossible, bad news could strike either candidate, but is it highly unlikely and nothing Hillary can do would change this equation.
Third. The Clintons know this. Any pundit talk to the contrary is pathetically out of touch with reality, as most pundit talk on television is. What is happening now is a Clintonian exit strategy. If Hillary does withdraw as I predict, when I predict, her popularity skyrockets and her negatives among Democrats and many independents fall substantially. In the unlikely event lightning strikes against Obama, Hillary is still around with far higher positives.
Fourth, Hillary only hurts herself by attacking Obama with questionable tactics. Her negative ratings go through the roof. Presidents cannot be elected this way. Period. End of discussion.
Any ignorant or trite talk to the contary from the pundit class, who have so often praised negative tactics as brilliant that were totally destructive to Hillary, are nothing more than gaseous emissions that contribute to global warming.
I repeat: Hillary's negative attacks against Obama hurt her numbers more than Obama's.
Fifth, there is a very clear pattern to the polling over the last three months almost without exception.
When Hillary takes cheap shots at Obama, Obama remains nearly even to slightly ahead of Hillary, while both candidates lose to McCain.
When Hillary avoids the cheap shots, which to her credit she has been doing the last few days, the Obama lead over Hillary rises, but both Hillary and Obama defeat McCain.
Sixth, any discussion that Hillary might prefer McCain defeat Obama, which some of her attacks give credence to, are politically deadly to Hillary's ambitions long term and short term.
Conversly, if Hillary drops out as I predict, when I predict, not only do her favorables move far up and her negatives move far down, but she would get a fair share of credit for an Obama general election win, with no risk of blame for a McCain win that would be politically deadly to Hillary.
Many (but not all) Clinton insiders generally agree with these assessments, and anyone who says anything to the contrary on the talk shows is either lying or not wired in.
Obviously events can change the fortune of either candidate, any day, but the most likely scenario is that Hillary drops out within the month and later concludes it was the wisest decision she would ever make.
For Hillary the presidential dream is not dead. This is not her year. If Obama loses, with the scenario descibed here, she has a huge shot in 2012, without Hillary being blamed for 2008. If Obama wins, under my scenario, Hillary has a very good shot in 2016 and many very good career options between now and then.
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Cross posted from THE HILL, where you can also comment
Brent Budowsky is a regular columnist on thehill.com. He served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served (more...)