Turning Up the Heat on Hillary

In South Dakota last weekend, Bill Clinton performed a lengthy monologue on the supposed injustices that his wife has suffered in her presidential campaign, bemoaning the “frantic effort to push her out” of the race.

"I can’t believe it,” the former president said. “It is just frantic the way they are trying to push and pressure and bully all these superdelegates to come out.”

He ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Clintons and their most ardent supporters are convinced that they have been victimized—by the press, by the process, by the Obama campaign. But the reality is that the most influential voices in the press and within the Democratic Party, to say nothing of Obama himself, have been fairly deferential.

The math has been stacked against Clinton for months now, but only after Indiana voted on May 6 did Tim Russert and Time magazine dare to label Obama the presumptive nominee. Since February, the Clintons’ reputation as a pair of political Houdinis has mostly bought them the benefit of the doubt when the subject of Hillary’s viability as a candidate was raised. Her chances of snagging the nomination were 10 percent at best (about 10 points higher than they now are), but the media continued to cover her with the intensity usually reserved for a front-runner. A lesser figure might simply have been ignored to death.

That deference has extended to the past few weeks. Behind the scenes, Obama’s campaign may be pushing superdelegates to choose sides, but the results have been mixed—a steady but not overwhelming trickle of endorsements—and publicly they’ve tried hard to give Clinton latitude to set her own timetable. Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who could speed up the process by publicly embracing Obama and strong-arming members of Congress to do the same, have been mostly quiet. And the media has continued to give serious treatment to Clinton, her claims of a popular-vote lead, her push for Florida and Michigan, and her threats to carry her campaign to Denver.

Turning Up the Heat on Hillary