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FixCam: Clinton Endures

In the wake of Tuesday night's results in North Carolina and Indiana, there is only one question on the minds of political junkies: "Why is she staying in?"

The "she" in that query is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) who appears committed to continuing her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination despite facing daunting odds that she can overcome Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in any measurable metric of the presidential race.

There are undoubtedly many reasons that Clinton is staying in, not the least of which is that she still believes a path exists for her to win the nomination.

How could she? The answer lies in a simple word that has defined the entirety of the Clintons long run atop Democratic politics: endurance.

Dating all the way back to Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and weaving through the narrative of his presidency as well as Hillary Clinton's run for the White House this year, the couple has been counted out, told to drop out and left for dead politically more times than we can count.

Remember back to 1992 when Bill Clinton entered the New Hampshire primary beset by swirling scandals about his personal life? He left the state as the "Comeback Kid" and went on to not only secure his party's nod but oust an incumbent Republican president who just a year before had looked invincible.

Again during impeachment, many people -- including some within his own party -- urged Bill Clinton to step aside. Not only did he endure but he prospered as Republicans' fervor for impeachment backfired and led to Democratic gains in Congress and sky-high approval ratings for Clinton's final days in office.

In her own political life, too, Hillary Clinton has shown the power of endurance. After a third place finish in Iowa's caucuses, she was largely counted out only to roar back to an entirely unexpected victory in the New Hampshire primary five days later. A few months after that, Clinton suffered a 12-contest losing streak in February only to bounce backs with primary wins in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.

And so, after reviewing that recent and not so recent political history, it's easy to see why Hillary (and Bill) Clinton believe that the results of Tuesday night have created yet another situation where everyone is counting them out but, through endurance and perseverance, they will ultimately win out.

Things happen in politics, goes this argument. You just need to be in a position to capitalize when they do.

The biggest problem with this logic is that there is so little time left for Clinton to change the conventional wisdom and no obvious place in which she can stage a comeback. Wins in West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico -- all of which are expected -- won't do it. And, with the media readying a turn to the general election, it will be extremely tough for Clinton to create a more positive storyline barring some sort of massive slip-up by Obama.

Unlike the comebacks by both Clintons in New Hampshire or the fight over impeachment, there is much more road behind Hillary Clinton in this contest than there is ahead of her. Endurance takes you only as far as there is track on which to run.

And, judging from the results of Tuesday night, Clinton may well have just run out of track.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 8, 2008; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  FixCam  
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