Hillary Clinton showed fighting spirit

June 4th, 2008 - 4:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 4 (DPA) She was knocked down over and over. But one thing Senator Hillary Clinton proved during her failed 18-month bid for the centre-left Democratic presidential nomination was she always got up again.

She fought to the very end as her advisors mounted an all-out effort to convince undecided super delegates to overturn Obama’s lead in the state-by-state contest.

Even after Obama secured the nomination Tuesday, by reaching the crucial 2,118 delegates needed, Clinton was not yet ready to call it quits.

“This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight,” Clinton said, drawing loud cheers from a defiant crowd of supporters in New York.

Clinton’s persistence and toughness both inspired and annoyed those around her.

Legions of female voters mobilized over the historic possibility of a woman president. Rivals were frustrated over her refusal to defer to Obama, who became the first African-American candidate to lead a major party in November elections.

Clinton had name recognition like few other candidates heading into the race to succeed President George W Bush, whose popularity has been undone by the war in Iraq and a weakened US economy.

As first lady, Clinton took an unusually active role in shaping policy, mainly through her high profile yet unsuccessful effort to push a universal health care plan through Congress.

But she may have been hurt by the scandals that rocked the Clinton administration, including Bill Clinton’s infidelity, which led to the former president’s impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

After overcoming concerns that her 2000 election as New York senator after her husband’s presidency was merely a launching pad to the White House, she became immensely popular with New Yorkers, winning reelection by 67 percent of the votes in 2006.

When Clinton declared her presidential candidacy in early 2007, she was lengths ahead of more than half a dozen male rivals. But by January, Obama, whose charm, outsider status and youth outshone her stiff and policy-wonkish image, had bumped her down to third place in the first nominating test in Iowa.

Obama, 46, campaigned by stressing the need for change, a strategy that caught on with voters who feared she would continue the political partisanship and bickering of the Clinton and Bush years.

The pattern of defeat and comeback begun in Iowa demanded a series of strategy adjustments. As a woman running for commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful country, Clinton had to project an iron will and toughness on foreign relations that earned her bad marks for being harsh and unfeeling.

Yet when she got teary-eyed over her love of country and won New Hampshire after the Iowa defeat, critics charged she had both manipulated emotions and was too weak-willed as a woman to become president.

Clinton’s prospects dimmed during 11 straight state losses in February, then brightened with strong wins in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania - giant stakeholders in the November elections. And so it went, with Clinton usually trailing slightly in the delegate count behind Obama.

Although Clinton and Obama agreed on most issues, such as the need for a speedy exit from Iraq and a stronger emphasis on diplomacy, the issues of sex and race were never far from the surface.

Both candidates were forced to disengage from supporters who made remarks construed as racist, most prominently as Obama distanced himself from his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Obama’s camp charged racism when Clinton claimed she had more appeal to the white workers who have voted Republican in the past -and thus could better beat Republican John McCain.

Clinton’s female supporters also complained of sexism in the media.

In the end, various factors stood in Clinton’s way. The spectre of a two-family two-step, passing the White House between the Bushes and the Clintons for more than 20 years, was seen as a stumbling block for the general electorate.

Democratic voters chose the fresh face of Obama, a first-term senator who touted Clinton as part of the old guard before crowds of up to 50,000.

In the wake of her loss, there has been talk of a vice-presidential candidacy, but it remains unclear how desirable such a union would be both for Obama and for Clinton. Clinton could also choose to take up the liberal banner in the senate carried for nearly five decades by Ted Kennedy, 76, who is suffering brain cancer.

She urged her supporters Tuesday to weigh in on her website, and those who did urged her to keep going, expressing reluctance to support Obama or be satisfied with a possible spot for her as vice-president on the Democratic ticket.

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