Page 2 of 2   <      

This Is an Ex-Candidate

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches Sen. Hillary Clinton's latest victory in the West Virginia primary. Akira Hakuta/

Customer: (Takes parrot from cage, bangs its head on counter, lets it drop to floor.) "Now, that's what I call a dead parrot."

Pet-shop owner: "No, he's stunned! . . . You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian blues stun easily, Major."

7:30 p.m., South Hall, Charleston Convention Center: The moment the polls close, the networks declare Clinton the winner of the primary. This is no surprise: Exit polls show a 2 to 1 margin for Clinton.

There is no television playing on the red-carpeted floor of the convention center, where all of 89 Clinton supporters have arrived so far. After a 12-minute delay, somebody thinks to turn on the TV in the hall, and the small group breaks into a chant: "It's not over."

Or is it? A week ago, Clinton won the Indiana primary by two percentage points -- and the media decreed that she had lost. Now she's trouncing Obama by double digits in West Virginia -- and nobody seems to care. This, no doubt, has something to do with the fact that she is trailing Obama in the popular vote, states won, pledged delegates and, now, superdelegates. Even Clinton loyalist James Carville calls Obama the likely nominee.

But Clinton aides press on in their effort to demonstrate life in her candidacy. At the Charleston victory celebration, McAuliffe charges up to the lectern. "Hillary Clinton is in this to the end," he tells the crowd. "She's going to Denver as the nominee!"

Customer: "He's not pining! He's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! He's expired and gone to meet his maker! He's a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! . . . His metabolic processes are now history! He's off the twig! He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible! This is an ex-parrot!"

9:06 p.m., still in the South Hall: The announcer has just introduced "the next president of the United States." And with the TV now turned off, it almost seems possible. The confetti guns are loaded and ready. The streamers hang from the ceiling. And the crowd -- now up to 500, all but about 10 of them white -- is rapturous as Clinton rebukes the "pundits and the naysayers."

"There are some who wanted to cut this race short!" Clinton says from the faux-wood lectern. They boo.

"I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign," she says. They cheer.

"There are many who wanted to declare a nominee before the ballots were counted or even cast," she says. They boo.

"This race isn't over yet," she says. They cheer.

The sound system emits a loud screech of feedback. The confetti cannons fire.

See? She wasn't dead; she was just pining for the fiords.

<       2

© 2008 The Washington Post Company