Whatever happens in the Pennsylvania primary tomorrow night, rest assured that Hillary Clinton’s spinmeisters will have it covered. Here’s a rhetorical tip sheet.
Scenario: Clinton wins in a landslide, by 10 percentage points or greater, trimming her national popular vote deficit to about 500,000, and cutting slightly into Obama’s national pledged delegate lead.
Spin: "It was 3 a.m. for America, and the common-sense voters of Pennsylvania answered the call. The bowlers and hunters of this great state stood up to the barrage of Obama TV ads, the flood of Obama money, and the hype about hope, and they simply said enough! The bowlers and hunters and worshippers and whiskey drinker all believe – as we do – that Senator Obama is an honorable man and a patriotic American, and tonight we are confident that they will join us in urging that Senator Obama immediately end his candidacy in the interests of party unity.
"He had a great run, while it lasted. We salute him for his contributions to this marathon race that we, of course, had anticipated all along. We always knew, even in our earliest planning stages, that April in Pennsylvania would prove to be the crucial time and place, the pivotal turning point, and we’d like to assure Senator Obama that his inclusion on Senator Clinton’s list of prospective running mates is virtually guaranteed. Unless, of course, she decides that Senator Obama would be more useful working for the next eight years as an assistant to the roving ambassador-in-chief."
Scenario: Clinton wins by modest single digits, a far cry from her original 20-point lead in the Pennsylvania polls, and she gains virtually no ground in the national pledged delegate count.
Spin: "A win is a win is a win. We always knew that this would be a close primary, and we always knew that many voters would inevitably be influenced by the barrage of Obama TV ads, the flood of Obama money, and the hype about hope. We always anticipated, even in our earliest planning stages, that Pennsylvania would be merely one marker in a long and arduous campaign, and now we will press ahead, firm in our belief that only a divided and fractious Democratic party can beat John McCain in November.
"As Senator Clinton has always stated, she is honored to share this race with Senator Obama - just as she is honored to question both his fitness for office, and his troublesome associations with people who might not love this country the way he undoubtedly does. We know that some want Senator Clinton to quit this race, just because she trails nationally in popular votes, pledged delegates, polls, states won, and campaign contributions. But real fighters don’t quit just because they don't always win. In fact, we sought all along to ensure that Senator Clinton would be the heavy underdog well into the spring season, in order to better demonstrate her fighting capabilities. That's why we changed campaign managers, fired our chief strategist, and allowed Senator Obama to win all the caucus states. All told, we’re very pleased with where we are."
Scenario: Clinton loses Pennsylvania.
Spin: "We're very pleased with where we are. We always knew that Pennsylvania would be a very tough environment for us. However, we strongly believe – as we have always believed – that the primary results in any state with 12 letters in its name, conducted at a point in the calendar when many potential voters are likely to be distracted by baseball games and spring cleaning, should be deemed an inaccurate representation of the electorate’s mood, and therefore illegitimate.
"Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are crucial to this party’s prospects in November, and therefore we urge Senate Obama to join us in calling for re-votes in all three states. We think this would be an excellent way for Senator Obama to demonstrate his love of America, which of course is unimpeachable, as far as we know. We are confident that Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Wright, and William Ayers will not influence his decision to support a Pennsylvania re-vote.
"But even if Senator Obama retains his negligible national lead after all the re-votes, and after the remaining nine primaries are conducted, we nevertheless believe there should be no rush to judgment, and that the people should be heard. We’d like to see the democratic process play out. Accordingly, Senator Clinton, in the interests of fairness, fully intends to reset the primary calendar and start over. Come June, we’ll see you all in Iowa. Iowa, the great state of corn. When Senator Clinton was a child, traveling through Iowa on car trips, she often ate corn..."
"American Debate" is moving. This entry has been cross-posted at the new site, which will be fully operational in early May. The new address, suitable for book-marking, is http://go.philly.com/polman