A winning strategy

Our view: The Democratic candidates should seek common ground

May 08, 2008

Sen. Hillary Clinton is mapping out her campaign stops in West Virginia and Kentucky, when she should be planning her exit strategy from this tough-fought campaign. Victories in West Virginia and Kentucky won't win her the Democratic presidential nomination. More superdelegates are seeing the handwriting on the wall. And if Mrs. Clinton resorts to brass-knuckled campaigning in the next month, she'll have a harder time mending rifts among Democrats when she could prove invaluable in helping the nominee win in November.

Sen. Barack Obama's double-digit victory in North Carolina gave him a near lock on the prize and left Mrs. Clinton contemplating a narrow win in Indiana and more than $6 million in debt. She would have to win over 80 percent of unpledged delegates to capture the nomination - a nearly impossible feat. If she fails to withdraw after the primaries end in early June, Democratic Party leaders are likely to push her toward the door.

The grueling primary season that preceded this turning point offered some surprising twists and important lessons. Both candidates discovered how the political ground could shift when voters decided the current economic crisis was more important than the continuing struggle in Iraq. Both experienced devastating verbal missteps, suffered the embarrassments of powerful figures in their past and learned that personal attacks could be effective but dangerous. Now the attacks should end.

In coming weeks, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama should concentrate their fire on Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, and show their shared Democratic values by seeking common ground on issues ranging from health care to trade to an Iraq exit strategy. Mr. Obama should recognize Mrs. Clinton's passion and grit and leave it to her to decide when, where and how to step aside. The last two presidential races have shown just how overwhelming the Republican attack machine can be. In such a struggle this fall, there will be no room for Senator Clinton to be less than enthusiastic about the Democratic nominee.

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