Hillary's Demolition Derby; Clinging On: Hillary and Bill Clinton Celebrate in Pennsylvania Next Battle: Barack and Michelle Obama Campaigning in Indiana
Byline: Gavin Esler
THE Democratic presidential election contest is turning into the onething neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama wanted: a Demolition Derby.
Instead of a clear winner, it's become a race in circles on a dirt track withplenty of destruction and no end in sight.
Despite Senator Clinton's nine per cent win in Pennsylvania yesterday only oneclear winner is emerging from the wreckage - the Republican candidate, SenatorJohn McCain.
As Clinton and Obama prepare to slug it out all the way to the party conventionin August, McCain can rise above the mud-slinging and appear presidential.
The danger of their situation is not lost on the Democrats. On the eve of thePennsylvania vote, an American comedian asked Senator Obama if he hasnightmares about waking up next year in the White House, after he has becomepresident, and finding Hillary Clinton is STILL running against him? Obama hadthe good grace to laugh but with Clinton declaring that Americans deserve 'apresident who doesn't quit,' he may wonder if the only thing which will stopher now is a stake driven through her heart at midnight.
For months - it seems like years - Democratic and Republican strategists havebeen planning how they want this election to go.
The Democrats' plan was roughly this: George Bush's crippling unpopularitywould help Hillary and Barack excite the American people with the prospect ofending the Bush era.
The next president would, for the first time, be a woman or a youthful AfricanAmerican. All kinds of people, especially the young who had not voted before,would come to the polls.
A new political generation would be born. No matter whether Obama or Clintontopped the Democratic ticket, they would slaughter the elderly McCain inNovember in a landslide victory for 'change'.
Now it looks very different. The Democrats cannot decisively choose acandidate. Obama has the most delegates, most money and slightly more popularvotes, but Hillary has won all the big states.
Obama's failure to win big in California, New York, Illinois or Pennsylvaniahas to be a worry for the Democrats if he is their champion in November.
Worse, Obama talked of ending the nasty politics of the past and yet - as onetop Republican recently pointed out to me - here is Mr Clean getting down inthe mud with Hillary. As for Hillary, she is damaged too. If she were to emergeas the Democratic candidate, how would she overcome the terrible opinion pollnews that a whopping 60 per cent of the American people say they do not trusther? Some have never trusted the Clintons, but she made matters even worse whenshe falsely claimed that as first lady she had come under sniper fire on avisit to the Balkans in the 1990s.
Every American TV viewer could see pictures of something very different.
There was Hillary strolling around an apparently peaceful Tuzla airport. And ifshe lied about that, voters must be thinking, what else will she lie about? In20 years of covering U.S. presidential election campaigns, I have never seenone as strange as this.
What we are witnessing is Democratic voters coughing up millions of dollars indonations to watch the two brightest stars in their party beat the livingdaylights out of each other.
As the contest gets nastier by the week, it presents both candidates with aterrible dilemma. Do they continue in the mud, damaging each other - or doesone of them try to rise above it, and risk being thought of as weak? Some wantHillary to quit. But after her win in Pennsylvania, why would she get out ofthe way to help a man who increasingly seems to irritate her, with momentumapparently behind her campaign now? The Democratic party grandee who goes in totell Hillary to get out of the race had better be wearing Kevlar body armourover his grey suit.
Come the Democratic party convention in Denver in August a bunch of almost 800so-called 'super-delegates' meet to choose the candidate. …