Monday, May 5, 2008

Derby Day Was Not A Good Day For Hillary

Derby day did not start out well for Senator Hillary Clinton, and it just got worse. Based upon an admittedly unscientific survey of the crowd arriving at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Clinton supporters were few and far between. Fans of Senator Barack Obama, in contrast, were everywhere to be seen.

Obama had a small army of volunteers holding up signs for passing motorists and marching up and down Central Avenue handing out lapel stickers, which were accepted by a wide range of racing fans dressed in everything from infield t-shirt attire to the most expensive suits, dresses and hats.

I spotted only one lonely Clinton volunteer lamely holding up a campaign sign, which prompted me to wonder what the Clinton camp was thinking not to have more people on the ground talking up Hillary at the event that probably drew more Kentucky and Indiana voters than any other this year. Maybe she thought she already has the Kentucky and Indiana primaries sewn up, and that a cameo appearance of Chelsea Clinton on Millionaire's Row would suffice. My sense from the crowd, however, is that Hillary's level of support in this region may not be as strong as she thinks.

Then, of course, there was the outcome of the Derby itself. Hillary's gender politics play -- picking Eight Belles to win -- boomeranged on her in a big way. One could not help but wonder whether the tragic outcome of the race foreshadowed a disastrous finish for the Clinton campaign. To be sure, unlike Eight Belles, Hillary would survive a second place finish and come back to fight another day (the Clintons always do), but the analogy Hillary brought on herself did little to create momentum in the closing stretch of her current race.

Hillary can take solace in the fact that Barack's pick -- Colonel John -- did not even finish in the money. But even so, Derby 134 simply was not Hillary's day and it was largely of her own doing.

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