An honorable defeat

Our view: It's time for Senator Clinton to help the party nominee

June 07, 2008

Today, Sen. Hillary Clinton, who gave her all in a rigorous, marathon primary campaign that left her just short of the Democratic presidential nomination, is expected to make her public peace with Sen. Barack Obama and renew her promise to campaign for him - we hope with the same tireless energy that won her admiration through the spring.

For the millions whose passionate support carried Mrs. Clinton to a virtual tie in the popular vote with Mr. Obama, it has been difficult to accept the reality of defeat, as it clearly has been for her. Many, particularly women, feel that she was wounded by patronizing and misogynistic media. But, in fact, while Mrs. Clinton campaigned artfully, emphasizing the economic and social challenges faced by moderate-income and older voters, she also made a series of serious mistakes.

Her early appeals to voters to choose experience over change was a significant miscalculation of the public mood, which, after eight years of President Bush, clearly favored change. Her expectation that the race for the nomination would be decided in early February's Super Tuesday primaries meant not much of a campaign in the early caucus states, which Mr. Obama swept. Profligate spending in the primaries left her short of cash in a pivotal period. Finally, a number of embarrassing verbal gaffes - her inaccurate depiction of her arrival in Bosnia under fire and an inappropriate reference to her white supporters, to name just two - fed concerns about her honesty and sincerity.

None of this was fatal. Even the most successful politicians have suffered their share of mistakes. But Senator Clinton's campaign didn't react fast enough to early missteps. She wasn't robbed of the nomination. She lost it in a fair fight with a capable, appealing opponent. Fortunately for Mrs. Clinton's supporters, Mr. Obama shares her values.

Senator Clinton's run for the presidency exhilarated female voters. Her intelligence, endurance and mastery of the issues excelled in a gritty campaign; her capacity to lead the nation was never in question. It was a victory for women in political office and those who support them. Now, Mrs. Clinton should continue to show that leadership by urging her legions of faithful voters to support Mr. Obama.

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