Hillary's only hope?

Associated Press
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could win her party's nomination through a very undemocratic selection method.

By all appearances, the Hillary Clinton campaign -- once the "machine" that would roar to an inevitable presidential nomination -- is in survival mode.

The campaign sought a quick infusion of cash, some of it Clinton's, after fighting Barack Obama to a draw on Super Tuesday Feb. 5.

Then came this past weekend, in which every race went to Obama. Nor is Clinton's own camp expecting her to do well in the so-called "Potomac Primary" today in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

And at the end of the weekend, Clinton changed campaign managers -- never a good sign, especially in the thick of a race.

But Clinton can take some solace in the fact that it's possible neither she nor Obama will earn enough delegates to win the nomination before the Democratic National Convention in August.

While that might keep the candidates' hopes alive, it could also play havoc with the party -- setting the stage for a "brokered convention" in which only last-minute vote-switching or back-room deals or lawsuits might decide the Democratic nominee.

Adding to the intrigue and danger is the Democratic Party's decidedly undemocratic system of "super delegates" -- 796 elected officials and party bosses who can vote any way they like. It's a system put in after the disastrous McGovern nomination and Carter presidency in order to make sure the great unwashed Democratic electorate doesn't make a similar mistake.

It may come back to haunt the party, particularly if the super delegates hand the nomination to Clinton after Obama wins the popular vote. Democratic stalwart Donna Brazile, herself a super delegate, has said she would quit the party if the super delegates do such a thing.

Also adding to the suspense is Florida and Michigan. The Democratic National Committee stripped those two states of their delegates for having the temerity to stage their primaries before Super Tuesday. In a tight and undecided national contest, it would be awfully tempting for Hillary Clinton to fight even into the courts to get those two states' delegates, since she won both states' primaries.

How unseemly would that be -- for a party that bitterly complained about judicial involvement, and popular vote nullification, in the 2000 presidential election to need a judge to decide its 2008 nominee?

Right now, however, with the Obama campaign on fire, such a messy end might be Hillary Clinton's only hope.

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