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TPM Reader RP catches the meta-message …

I think what H and a lot of people are missing about Hillary Clinton might become head-smackingly obvious after this election is over. I’m an Obama supporter, and I’m offended by Hillary’s demagoguery. But I don’t think people get what she’s doing here.

By being a ‘fighter’ and playing to the lowest kind of populism (and wow do we hate it), Hillary is showing that if she were somehow to get nominated, she’ll run exactly the kind of stay-on-the-offensive campaign that will force mistakes from McCain and make it more likely that she’ll win in November. She’s also making it clear that Obama will never run that kind of campaign.

McCain is 71. Running for President will be an immense strain on anyone, let alone someone of that age. Even in the best of times, he’s prone to shocking outbursts. With Hillary running, for the first time in anyone’s memory, a Republican-toned campaign as a Democrat, she’s showing that she can force McCain to make a ‘macaca’-style gaffe. When Republicans grumble about McCain’s temper, they’re not worried about how he’ll behave as President (since when has actual job performance mattered to them?); they’re worried about how he’ll campaign. They’re frightened of a Phil Mickelson-esque implosion.

Obama, by contrast, will run a high-minded campaign and may well win on merit. And he’ll always be on the defensive. As I said, I favor him Obama a wide margin. But I favor a Democrat over a Republican by an even wider margin.

The upshot: I’ll happily support Hillary if she ‘steals’ the nomination. Aside from the benefits of not having a crop of incompetent government-haters running government, one of the benefits of a winning Hillary campaign would be to relieve a blight on our
country: the Atwater/Rove school of Republican campaign mudslinging. It’s not about fighting back. It’s about taking the first shot. She won’t let them get their Swift Boats in the water to start with. If both sides are Atwatering it, yes, it’ll be very very ugly, cue the
‘Unity12’ theme music and hand-wringing by the delicate. But I think we’re in for ugly no matter what, because they’re not going to stop. We may as well engage or get used to losing.

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