The Man from Hope
As May gave way to June, Clinton slogged on through the last big round of primaries in California, Ohio, and New Jersey. The news that Tuesday was good on its face, as it had been every primary day since his stumble in Connecticut; he swept the board and picked up the last delegates he needed to guarantee his nomination. But it didn't seem to matter, to his own battered morale or to his prospects in November. The press was all but ignoring him. His campaign was shot through with internal tensions. He was still third in the polls; winning primaries wasn't so much fun when a quarter to a half of the electorate in your own party said in the exit surveys that they would have been happier voting for Ross Perot.
"So I've struggled through all these primaries," he groused to Frank Greer one day, "and all I get for it is that I'm in third place."
Greer tried to persuade him that being third was a blessing in disguise -- that it sheltered him from an air attack by the Republicans at a point when he had no money left with which to fight back.
"So being third after all these primaries is a plus instead of a minus," Clinton said. He sounded unconvinced; where he came from, third place was third place.
He didn't see a clear way up from under; on the contrary, he was having an attack of what he might have called buyer's remorse over the new message elements his people had laid before him. Privately, he complained to his friend Bruce Lindsey that too much of it came from focus groups and people meters as against the years of study he had done preparing himself for the race. It had all sounded okay at a twohour meeting, but after a couple of days of reflection, he wasn't sure anymore. His discomfort showed in his speeches, which seemed, if anything, to be busier in detail and fuzzier in conception than ever. "We were playing Moses out there," one senior adviser said after a particularly bad show in California. Clinton was wandering all over the desert, adrift from theme to theme.
The Manhattan Project task force kept trying and, by mid-June,