Ms. Clinton Meet Mr. Freud

The Clintons have been nothing if not persistent opportunists whose immunity from embarrassment coupled with an entitlement attitude have produced a governor, a senator, and at least one president. Persistence is the Clinton lesson.

After the success of the first Gulf War, the first President George Bush reached a remarkable approval rating of 89%. The conventional wisdom held that 1992 would be a Republican year and President Bush would sweep to re-election. Prominent Democratic hopefuls decided to pass up the 1992 Democratic nomination. Big names like Senators Lloyd Benson, Bill Bradley, and Al Gore as well a popular New York Governor Mario Cuomo decided to sit out 1992. However, relatively unknown Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton beat out Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown for the Democratic nomination.

The economy soured in late 1991. Although it recovered in part by November 1992, President Bush’s popularity reached more conventional levels. Then third-party candidate millionaire Ross Perot parlayed his populist message to 19% of the popular vote. It lured enough moderates and conservatives away from Bush to yield the election to Clinton who won with a plurality of  43%. This  victory was, when perceived, from a year earlier  a unlikely turn of events that taught the Clintons: you can never tell what will happen if you keep your hat in the ring.

Since the Democratic nomination will almost certainly go to Senator Barack Obama, it is reasonable to ask why Senator Hillary Clinton remains in the race. The reason is probably because you can never know what will happen. Moreover, if she stays in, she may be able to force herself onto the ticket. As a vice-presidential nominee she would likely succeed Obama as presidential nominee in years ahead. If for some reason, Obama was not be able to complete his term a Vice-President Clinton would step in. In any case, if someone else becomes Obama’s vice-president, it would introduce a new and potential potent rival on the Democratic side.

A couple of days ago, Senator Clinton brought up Senator Robert Kennedy’s 1968 assassination with regard to how long primaries last. At this risk of practicing psychology without license, I offer the speculation that Hillary committed a Freudian slip. She did not mean to encourage assassination or invoke some sinister possibility. She was thinking out loud her thoughts about why to remain in the race for the nomination. She was simply pulling the curtain from the private Clinton motto of refusing to concede because you never know what will happen.

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