by ROBERT HEROLD & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & ollowing the Pennsylvania primary, the question emerges: Will Team Clinton cost the Democratic Party yet another presidential election?

Yes, the Supreme Court stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, courtesy of Ralph Nader, without whose presence the politicized court would never have become involved in the first place. But, the elephant in the tent back then was none other than Bill Clinton. Al Gore couldn't drumbeat his role during the peace and prosperity of the '90s because his star witness was last seen skulking around with a bag over his head. Gore had to have been mortified when Feckless George W, showing not a hint of embarrassment, preempted the morality issue.

Chalk up Team Clinton's first loss.

Hillary may be in the process of doing to Obama in 2008 what her husband did to Al Gore in 2000: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This election should be in the bag for a Democrat even before it begins. John McCain has embraced Bush and his war. McCain has no economic agenda except "sink or swim." And if you think that Obama has a problem with Reverend Wright think again. Obama, who was going to the reverend's church before it was expedient to do so, immediately denounced Wright for his remarks. John McCain, in full pander mode, not only embraced Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, he actually said that he agreed with their explanations for 9/11 -- it was brought about by gays, feminists and liberals.

Clinton argues that she is more electable because she has been completely "vetted." We will find out only if she wins the nomination. So far voters have not seen Hillary in full monty because Obama can't easily refer to that vetting without at the same time becoming critical of the elephant-in-the-tent. Hedrick Hertzberg, writing in The New Yorker, observes that Obama is campaigning against Hillary with one hand tied behind his back.

Republicans will not be so constrained. They will effectively trash Hillary's claims of 35 years of experience, calling attention to the disastrous Janet Reno appointment, Hillary's botched health care reform, Travelgate, pardons and other White House follies, that dubious $109 million, and the infamous 3 am call. They'll ask: Wouldn't you really want John McCain to take that call?

Hillary supporters don't seem to understand that at the exact time her attacks were winning votes in Pennsylvania, they were lowering her approval ratings throughout the rest of the country. Her national negatives are now in the mid-50 percent range. She is regarded, even in Pennsylvania, as "less honest than Obama" -- i.e. she didn't "misspeak" about her heroics in Bosnia; she lied.

Nor is it clear that Hillary can count on her Pennsylvania support in November. We know that the vote reflected a considerable amount of racism: Twenty percent of the voters, in exit polls, said that race mattered and of these, 60 percent voted for Hillary, a similar pattern to what we saw in Ohio. These voters preferred a woman over a black. In November these same voters have a chance to elect one of their own over a woman.

The truth is, Republicans want to run against Hillary; she makes a much bigger and better target. And they aren't even secretive about their agenda. Rush Limbaugh was chortling about the high number of party crossovers in Pennsylvania, all voting for Clinton.

And now we hear that she is making another pass over the Florida-Michigan delegates. Let's see, Obama plays by the rules -- doesn't campaign in Florida and isn't even on the ballot in Michigan. Hillary campaigns in both states. She easily wins in Florida and squeaks out a win in Michigan -- when her name was the only name on the ballot. Now, because "the people deserve to be heard," she is laying claim to delegates being selected through a last-minute caucus process -- you know, those caucuses that, when losing so many of them, she said don't mean that much anyway. Or consider her answer to the question, "Is Obama a Muslim?" She answered, "Not so far as I know." And it goes on and on and on. Clintonspeak.

A more cynical analysis views her kitchen-sink tactics as necessary to the success of a revised long-range strategy. Call this strategy "quadrangulation" or "winning by losing," if winning by winning isn't in the cards.

Winning by winning: She somehow wins the nomination and energetically takes on McCain. After all, if a Democrat can't win in 2008 maybe the party should go away.

Winning by losing: She loses the nomination but, along the way, does as much damage to Obama as she can, diminishing his chances of beating McCain in November. And that's the point.

Rationale: Even if McCain wins in November, Hillary still has time. McCain, by then 76, would not run in 2012. But, if Obama wins, no White House for Hillary. She has to assume that Obama would serve two terms and by 2016 she will be 69, the elder-statesman successor to Ted Kennedy. But, should Obama lose, Hillary, at age 65, would become the odds-on favorite to win the 2012 nomination, running on the theme, "I told you so."

Could it be that we aren't seeing the end of her 2008 campaign, but rather the beginning of her 2012 campaign?

Quadrangulation? A stretch? Remember, it was the Clintons who invented "triangulation" and sold it as a moral philosophy.

Gonzaga Day

Sat., Feb. 11
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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.