I went to dinner with three friends last night in Bethesda, just outside Washington. We began talking about the Democratic primaries and about how disgusted we were with the Clintons’ campaign tactics, especially Bill Clinton’s dismissive equation of Obama’s South Carolina victory with Jesse Jackson’s wins there in 1984 and 1988. We were agreed that if any Republican had said something like that, they would have been hounded for playing the race card. Remember Trent Lott? One of my dinner companions had long accused me of being too anti-Hillary, but he, too, now joined in the pile-on. Then something funny happened. A woman at an adjoining table leaned over and said, "I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I was backing Hillary until last week but now I am with Obama. My daughter is in college in California and she is voting for Obama. We all are voting for Obama." She and her husband joined our conversation for about five minutes, before the arrival of entrees required their attention. Then, a woman on the other side of our table got up to leave. She was an older woman, perhaps in her early 60s. She leaned over and said, "I won’t even vote for her in November now. And, I used to work for the Clintons! Make sure you contact all your friends to make sure they vote for Obama." I wonder how many conversations like this happened across Washington area restaurants last night. Most voters are not really paying much attention to the race yet, and they may have missed the Clintons’ antics in South Carolina. And, Lord knows, a fancy French restaurant in Bethesda is atypical – more liberal and more plugged-in than most of the country. But, it is the kind of place journalists go and I am betting that Hillary doesn’t get anymore breaks from the press. As the campaign moves from retail to wholesale with Tsunami Tuesday, and all campaign reality is filtered through the press corps, not getting breaks matters. As if to confirm my hunch, this morning’s Washington Post started Dana Milbank’s "Campaign Sketch" column on page 1, instead of page 2. He notes that all the candidates agreed not to campaign in Florida, and so that the race was not really a test of the candidates. But then, commenting on Hillary’s decision to fly to Florida for a victory party nonetheless, he wrote: "But in a political stunt worthy of the late Evel Knievel, the Clinton campaign decided to put on an ersatz victory party that, it hopes, would erase memories of Obama’s actual victory Saturday night in South Carolina." Ouch. The rest of the article slams the Clinton campaign just as hard. It is one of the great ironies of politics and of life, that the toughest crosses we are called to bear are, as often as not, the ones we fashion for ourselves. In their desperate grasp for power, the Clintons have lost control of their own campaign. The press has turned on them. And so has the person at the next table. Will California be next? Michael Sean Winters

Comments

Anonymous | 1/30/2008 - 9:43pm
There are no fancy French restaurants in Bethesda, only La Miche. But its usual clientele is certainly representative of the core Hillary Clinton demographic. If she has lost La Miche, she is clearly in trouble.