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Clinton Seeks to Cash In on 'Drop Out' Talk

There's a silver lining in every dark cloud, or at least that's the approach Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign is taking when it comes to recent comments made by surrogates for Barack Obama that Clinton should drop from the Democratic presidential race.

Just hours after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told Vermont Public Radio that there was "no way" Clinton could win enough delegates to claim the nomination and, therefore, "she ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama," an e-mail entitled "The Pattern" arrived in The Fix's inbox.

"Have you noticed the pattern?" Clinton asks in the message, adding: "Every time our campaign demonstrates its strength and resilience, people start to suggest we should end our pursuit of the Democratic nomination.

"Those anxious to force us to the sidelines aren't doing it because they think we're going to lose the upcoming primaries. The fact is, they're reading the same polls we are, and they know we are in a position to win."

The e-mail asks for a donation to Clinton's campaign before March 31 -- the close of the first fundraising quarter of the year.

Then, this morning, another e-mail solicitation arrived -- this one from former president Bill Clinton with the subject line, "Not big on quitting."

In it, the former president reminds people that 130 pledged delegates and less than one percent of the popular vote are all that separate Clinton from Obama. "Millions of voters have yet to make their voices heard," Clinton adds. "This election should be about their choice."

Bill Clinton says "my family isn't big on quitting" (perhaps a subtle reference to the impeachment fight of the late 1990s) and asks people to donate before Monday's fundraising deadline to beat back calls for his wife to drop out. "With all the talk of the state of the race, all the people telling her she should just give up, you and I must make sure she has everything she needs to stay in this race," he writes.

Turning a negative into a positive has been one of the hallmarks of both Clintons since the early 1990s. What the fundraising solicitations seek to do -- smartly -- is create an "us vs. them" dynamic: Elites within the party -- Leahy, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and others want to end the race while average people very much want it to continue.

To further drive that idea home, the Clinton campaign sent out a blast e-mail to reporters last night featuring excerpts from a story penned by the Associated Press's Beth Fouhy headlined, "Clinton: In the Race for the Long Run."

"If Hillary Rodham Clinton is feeling heat from pundits and party elders to quit the race and back Barack Obama, you'd never know it from her crowds, energy level and upbeat demeanor on the campaign trail," wrote Fouhy -- a line featured prominently in the e-mail.

Given the Clintons' high standing in the party, selling the idea that the elites and the establishment are against her is not an easy task. But it's been The Fix's experience so far in this race that when the chattering class calls the race for either candidate, the public revolts.

Clinton needs to hope that that trend continues heading into Pennsylvania on April 22 and Indiana and North Carolina on May 6.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 29, 2008; 3:28 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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