The Note: Hillary's Choice


Some politicians miss cues (sorry, Mike Huckabee, but jokes -- like campaigns -- rise and fall on the timing).

Some see cues and ignore them (welcome back, Ralph Nader, and this no joke -- but no keen grasp of timing, either).

For others, the cues are just starting to be delivered -- and we may see soon whether gentle tones from the orchestra are enough to convince a candidate to exit the stage (or whether the director will have to cut straight to commercial).


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., could fast be approaching the decisive moment of her campaign. She has eight days to slow the juggernaut that is Sen. Barack Obama's campaign -- or those tentative voices (heard now even among denizens of Camp Clinton) asking her defer to the good of the party will rise into shouts.

Her internal struggle pits the Clinton campaign against the Clinton legacy. The Clintons, of all people, know you can't stop thinking about tomorrow -- and they have many tomorrows in Democratic politics regardless of how this campaign turns out.

Viewed another way, Sen. Clinton is already at the decisive moment of the campaign -- down though not yet out, and in desperate need of new line of attack that can shake up a race that's tipping against her.

She found a defiant new voice on Sunday, her outrage joining sarcasm and incredulity over the fact that she finds herself at this point: "I could stand up here and say lets just get everybody together, lets get unified," Clinton said, per ABC's Eloise Harper.

"The sky will open, the light will come down celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know that we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect."

She's focusing on an Obama mailer on trade that she describes as deceptive -- but more generally, she is trying to focus attention on a rival who has never gotten the same scrutiny she has.

"Clinton traded her usual wonky style this weekend for a fiery, populist tone," Perry Bacon Jr. and Alec MacGillis write in The Washington Post. She's channeling John Edwards: "You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear," said Clinton.

This is the tactic she'll ride into Tuesday's debate in Cleveland -- the one where she said over the weekend she wants to have a debate with Obama "about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign."

"If you're not wiling to be pinned down, if you continue to put forth misleading information about one of the most important issues we face, namely how to get everyone health insurance, then what is it that people are really hanging on to as people cast their votes?" Clinton tells the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody.

"I think there is a big difference between talk and action. And there certainly is a difference between the words of Sen. Obama's speeches and the actions of his campaign."

But pardon us if we thought we'd detected a closing argument or two before. "She tried TV ads saying he ducked debates. She accused him of plagiarism. She disparaged his huge crowds. She called his attacks on her shameful and dishonest. On Sunday, Clinton turned to ridicule," Michael Finnegan and Mark Z. Barabak write in the Los Angeles Times.

"Clinton's string of tactical adjustments comes amid Obama's 11-contest winning streak, which has given him the lead in delegates to the party's national convention."

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