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Subject: What does Hillary Want?

From Page 2 of 2 on

Debt Relief. Here's an irony: Hillary can keep lending money to her campaign, at least in the short term, without much risk because it's very likely that Obama will agree to pay it in exchange for peace. There are limits to Obama's generosity, of course. Money used for negative attacks from here on out would put her debt repayment at risk. So too would any funds to stretch the campaign beyond the primary end date. And as for Mark Penn's debts? Take a lesson from Wilder: Your staff should consider your good company compensation enough.

A Major Platform Win. Namely, healthcare. Hillary needs to be able to make the case that her campaign had a substantive impact on the race. The best way to do that is to get to write the party's healthcare plank in the platform. If Obama folds on the mandate issue, Hillary walks away with a policy win. Plus, this would please John and Elizabeth Edwards. Choosing Elizabeth to write the healthcare plank of the platform could appease both camps.

VP Right of First Refusal. Here the Clintons have the power to tie Obama's hands. Harold Ford on MSBNC Tuesday made a strong case that Clinton and Obama together should hammer out a team, whether it ends up Obama-Clinton or not. In 1960, John F. Kennedy felt obliged to offer the vice presidential slot to Lyndon Johnson and was stunned when he accepted. Negotiations will probably force Obama into a similar situation. In the end, Hillary Clinton may not want the vice president's job ... but she would be wise to negotiate some form of veto power over Obama's choice. That way she can tactfully say no to another woman making it onto the ticket to steal her spotlight. She could ensure that none of the potential 2012 candidates get positioned for a run in case Obama should fail in November. And she can get in one last twist of the knife on Bill Richardson. NBC's Lawrence O'Donnell's speculated last month that Wesley Clark could be the compromise choice. That theory looks plausible. Clinton loyalists like Evan Bayh and Ted Strickland could be acceptable choices too. If the VP choice is a Hillary loyalist who validates her claim that Obama needs help with blue-collar voters, she will have done what Wilder did with the Chuck Robb-Bill Clinton-Mark Warner "unity" photo -- maintain a grip on the future of the party.

Without question, Barack Obama is entering a very uncomfortable stage of his campaign. Comparisons to Mike Dukakis in 1988 are inevitable -- and if the negotiations drag out, there will be questions about who is really in charge. The sooner he gets it over with, the better for him.

And if he needs a confidence boost that everything will turn out right, he can just ask Doug Wilder. After his endorsement, Wilder hit the campaign trail for Chuck Robb, cut radio advertisements, and did everything else possible to get out his supporters to vote for the incumbent senator. He repaired the damage not in five months, but five weeks. In 1994 -- one of the worst years for Democrats in the 20th century -- the supposedly divided and hopeless Virginia Democratic Party pulled off the most surprising win of the year. Wilder announced he was leaving the race in September, and his photo-op reconciliation with Chuck Robb took place Oct. 21. Less than three weeks later, Robb beat Ollie North by 3 points, largely because of a strong turnout from black voters.

So stay calm. This is what Democrats do ... from bitter fights often come the most surprising and useful political alliances. 
But first, everyone has to talk. 

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