From The NY Times column "The Caucus":
As if the divisions between race and gender in the Democratic Party hadn’t been further exposed through Tuesday night’s exit polls — and by a very heated exchange on CNN between Donna Brazile and Paul Begala — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s interview with USA Today on Wednesday is further mining those tense depths.
“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in the interview, citing an article by The Associated Press.
It “found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
“There’s a pattern emerging here,” she said.
Audio of the interview is here:
While she said her remarks weren’t meant to be divisive, they’re already whipping around the Internet. “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that,” she said in the interview. (Hint, hint, message to the superdelegates still undeclared.)
In Indiana alone, six in 10 white voters went for Mrs. Clinton, where she narrowly won the primary.
Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, told the newspaper that Mr. Obama had made inroads in Tuesday’s contests. And he added that her comments “are not true and frankly disappointing.”
On Tuesday night, we mentioned the dustup between two Democratic pundits, Ms. Brazile and Mr. Begala, who engaged in a prime-time debate about the coalitions being built by Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Begala, a Clinton supporter, said the party could not win in November with just “eggheads and African-Americans,” that the party could not ignore white middle-class voters. Ms. Brazile, who said she was not “undecided but undeclared” when it came to her choice for a candidate, shot back that Mr. Begala’s notions were dividing the party. (And that she’d chugged down many a beer with Joe and Jane “six-pack” in an effort to woo white voters.)
We’re revisiting their spirited exchange to demonstrate how divided party loyalists are right now.
Peggy Noonan's recent column in the Wall Street Journal centers on the Begala/Brazile dustup. An excerpt:
In case you didn't get what was behind that exchange, Mrs. Clinton spent this week making it clear. In a jaw-dropping interview in USA Today on Thursday, she said, "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on." As evidence she cited an Associated Press report that, she said, "found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."
White Americans? Hard-working white Americans? "Even Richard Nixon didn't say white," an Obama supporter said, "even with the Southern strategy."
If John McCain said, "I got the white vote, baby!" his candidacy would be over. And rising in highest indignation against him would be the old Democratic Party.
To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by.
"She has unleashed the gates of hell," a longtime party leader told me. "She's saying, 'He's not one of us.'"
She is trying to take Obama down in a new way, but also within a new context. In the past he was just the competitor. She could say, "All's fair." But now he's the competitor who is going to be the nominee of his party. And she is still trying to do him in. And the party is watching.
Who can save the situation? The superdelegates.
You know them. They're the ones hiding under the rock, behind the boulder, and at the bar.
They are terrified, most of them. They want the problem to go away. They want it handled, but they don't want to do it. They don't want to tell Hillary to stop, because they would likely pay a price for it, and not just with her.
They are afraid of looking as if they're jumping on a train that's speeding down the tracks and is about to roll over the damsel in distress.
Which is how Hillary -- and her supporters -- will paint it. Even though she's no damsel, and she causes distress.