Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 09:38 UK

Washington diary: Miracle needed

By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

I think it is safe to assume that Rupert Murdoch has been struck off the Clinton family Christmas card list.

Hillary Clinton
Mrs Clinton was forced to loan her campaign $6.4m last month

One of his newspapers, the tabloid New York Post, distilled what an army of bet-hedging pundits, silver-tongued strategists, retired White House bigwigs and hand-wringing party bosses tried to hint at last night after Hillary's lead in Indiana had been parboiled down to a miserly 2%:

"TOAST!", the newspaper thundered at New Yorkers as they bit into their bagels.

For all their supposed straight talking, Americans, I find, are unusually uncomfortable at calling a spade a spade when the gardening implement is aimed at political royalty - so leave it to the filthy tabloids.

The New York Daily news was kinder and perhaps more accurate: "Hill needs a miracle!"

She does indeed.

Unfair smears

Earlier this week she still had a chance to woo the undecided super delegates with a big win in Indiana and a tie or slim victory in North Carolina.

That has not happened.

If anything, the outrage over Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright encouraged African-Americans to vote in record numbers, because they thought that their candidate was being unfairly smeared.

America loves a happy ending, but I am not sure whether Hillary is prepared to give the Democrats one

At the same time, Hillary Clinton's call for a summer vacation from the dastardly gas tax was unmasked as an economically unsound piece of political theatre.

Personally, I was surprised by both developments.

The two best weeks of Hillary's campaign thus ended in a whimper. She must feel that she is jinxed.

There are two kinds of miracles that could save Hillary's campaign.

The first is that the online ferrets and cyber-sleuths discover something really unseemly about Barack Obama that torpedoes his candidacy.

But it is hard to imagine what could be more damaging than the toxic rhetoric of his former pastor, whose collateral damage was far less serious than most of us had imagined.

The second miracle is that Barack Obama is spirited away to a distant star by little green men. This, on balance, is the more likely scenario.

Grim maths

So Hillary Clinton finds herself in a quandary.

The lady is strapped for cash.

Last month she had to lend her own campaign another $6.5m (3.2m) on top of the $5m (2.5m) that she had already borrowed from herself in March.

The super-delegates are not returning her phone calls.

The maths of pledged delegates and the popular vote is looking grim.

On stage in Indianapolis a sunburnt Bill Clinton looked as sour as a giant cranberry.

Chelsea apeared to be on the verge of tears.

And yet on Wednesday morning, Hillary - dressed in fluorescent scarlet - came out dagger-eyed and guns blazing in a remake of the zombie movie Dawn of the Dead.

Bill and Chelsea Clinton look on as Hillary Clinton makes a victory speech in Indiana, 6 May 2007
Mrs Clinton's husband and daughter looked emotional during her speech

Apart from Mrs Clinton herself, it is very hard to find people who do not believe this is over.

Hillary is in denial - on life support.

Now it is just a question of consulting the relatives - i.e. the super-delegates - about when to pull the plug and how to preserve maximum dignity.

Republicans have none of the qualms that Democrats have on this issue and one of their kind put it like this: "Someone's gonna have to take the family dog to the vet!"

Call it political euthanasia or assisted suicide, the Democratic Party is hoping for a dignified exit.

This would allow Obama to emerge relatively unscathed from his travails and the party to heal its wounds.

Ravenous vultures

The party hopes to ensure that the legions of women and white blue-collar workers who see Hillary as their Joan of Arc do not stay at home on 6 November or vote for John McCain.

America loves a happy ending, but I am not sure whether Hillary is prepared to give the Democrats one.

She is continuing to clench her fist and shout at the grim reaper.

And yet she has been careful to avoid the mortal sin that would force the super-delegates to pull the plug on her life support machine.

Bruised, battered and brazen, her attacks on Obama were conspicuous only by their absence.

If she picks another fight with the dauphin of the party the super-delegates will circle around her like ravenous vultures.

Hillary may soon be out of this race.

But whatever happens she is not saying adieu to politics.

Wait for her reincarnation as Senate majority leader, Governor of New York, future presidential candidate or even, as some have suggested, Vice-President.

Matt Frei is the presenter of BBC World News America which airs every weekday at 0030 BST on BBC News and at 0000 BST (1900 ET / 1600 PT) on BBC World News and BBC America (for viewers outside the UK only).

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