As a card-carrying member of the aforementioned fan club, I’m hoping that Senator Clinton works her heart out for Senator Obama’s campaign. She’s been a relentless campaigner for others in the past and similar efforts on behalf of the party this year would be tremendously gracious. While she certainly feels an obligation to the party itself, her role as a national figure depends on supporting Senator Obama. If he loses, as she reportedly believes he will, then she has nothing to lose. The more she champions his candidacy, the less anyone will be able to blame an Obama defeat on her.
Regardless of whether she ever runs for the presidency again, her status as a public figure is stronger after the primaries than they were beforehand. The same cannot be said for Senator Obama. Amidst defeat and constant ridicule, Senator Clinton was brought down a notch. The images of Lady Macbeth were replaced with gritty and resilient fighters like Rocky and Clint Eastwood. Compared to Senator Obama and other candidates, she is now viewed as more moderate, more centrist, and more experienced. Most importantly, she has gone beyond Bill. Many people, myself included, prefer her over President Clinton.
What does this mean? Who knows. But such a transformation, reemergence, or whatever one may call it, in a mere matter of months, is certainly significant. This increased stature for Senator Clinton is matched by increased support from segments of the population who many never dreamed would support her. Blue collar workers, Hispanics, older voters, women, and other jujitsu demographic groups were all part of her base during the campaign. Although support among these groups may have been initially soft, it became cemented by June. Clinton supporters were deemed racist, old-fashioned, and nearly everything else. Throw in an unashamedly taunting media, the contention that she won the popular vote, and Senator Obama’s efforts to ensure that neither Florida nor Michigan would have a re-vote, and you have a group of voters who feel they got a raw deal in their party’s primaries.
This could all be sour grapes, but keep in mind that Governor Reagan’s followers in 1976 remembered their guy in 1980. Other candidates from Roosevelt to Nixon to John McCain today all spent their own time in the political wilderness. The key to success was always whether their supporters were still there when they reemerged. Adversity can be a unifying thing and the 18 million Clinton voters certainly didn’t have a smooth ride through the last several months. If even a fraction of them remain after this year then she could have a substantial following waiting in the future.
All this will likely be moot if Senator Obama wins the presidency, so her best bet is to go back to the Senate and do what she does best. She should pass legislation, attend to constituent concerns, and compromise with those across the aisle. In short, continue to prefer actions over words. There will be more attention now and it will stand in stark contrast to the sloganeering of her opponents. Still, if the media continue to declare the current race over, Senator McCain could pull a New Hampshire, a Super Tuesday, a Pennsylvania or any of the other elections where Senator Clinton was pronounced dead by the punditry.
In that case, the voters in 2012 may want to reincarnate her one more time.