On television, of course, it’s difficult to make a nuanced point but it occurred to me when discussing the whole “should Hillary drop out” issue that a decision to end her campaign needn’t deprive the Ellen Malcolms of the world their chance to register a vote for the first viable woman presidential candidate. If she announced that she was done campaigning on Monday, she’d still be on the ballot in West Virginia on Tuesday — and in Kentucky a week later — and she’d still probably win both states.
Folks are still out there voting for Mike Huckabee, after all. The difference is just that Huckabee isn’t actively campaigning for their votes. He’s endorsed John McCain and receded a lot from public view. And conversely, receding a bit and starting to transition to playing a constructive non-presidential role in Democratic politics is available to Clinton even if she doesn’t drop out. What the party needs from her, fundamentally, is for her to avoid spending the time between this weekend and Puerto Rico launching a constant barrage of attacks on Obama. That’s consistent with dropping out or with staying in the race, and dropping out is consistent with her most loyal voters still voting for her anyway. The specific modalities aren’t very important, it’s about shifting the national discussion to the problems with McCain.