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Pandering To Whom?

On MSNBC John Harwood just asked Harold Ickes how Hillary's gas tax gimmick (my word not his) "is playing with your real audience, the superdelegates." I've heard this line before: That the gas tax holiday isn't just bad policy, it's bad politics insofar as superdelegates see it as a cynical pander that turns them off to Hillary.

Maybe. But at the end of the day, I think Hillary's goal, when it comes to winning that improbable supermajority of undelcared superdelegates, is simple: She needs to convince them that she is more electable than Obama. And the best way for her to do that is to win states, win votes, and lift her standing in the polls--to establish a narrative that she's gaining strength and momentum, and that Obama is turning out to be a flawed national candidate. Gas tax pandering is a means to that end, and that end supercedes everything. The race will not ultimately be decided on policy grounds.

P.S. Ickes was also pressed on whether it would be "fair" to count the votes in Florida and Michigan. He countered by asking, as the Clintonites often do, whether it would be "fair" to tell the Democrats who turned out in those primaries that their votes don't count. But that's a different argument. The issue of "fairness" applies here to two candidates in a contest run under certain accepted rules. The voters of Michigan and Florida might feel angry, or ignored, or that they wasted a perfectly good 30 minutes of their life casting an irrelevant vote. But I don't see how they, the voters, are victims of unfairness. (And if they do feel that way maybe they should take it up with their state parties and the DNC.)

P.P.S. This doesn't mean that Hillary suffered some bum luck by seeing two big and favorable states effectively bumped from the playing field for reasons not in her control. But that's a different point for another time.

--Michael Crowley