Clinton's Got It Sewed Up, But ...

OH, I know it is all over on the Democratic side. Bill Clinton is the nominee. He's got the delegates.

House Speaker Tom Foley held up his hand the other morning and said he would "certify" that Governor Clinton would be the nominee. Reporters were asking whether he thought that the Democratic convention might turn to someone else.

And yet, Mr. Foley conceded that the unpredictable is the norm in politics. "For example," he said, "who would have guessed a year ago that Ross Perot would be in this and causing such a stir?"

"And who would have guessed a year ago," a reporter added, "that Bush would be so far down from that high he had in the polls and that he would be struggling to stay in office?"

Gov. Mario Cuomo also said over lunch the other day that there was no doubt at all that Clinton was the nominee. And he said that Clinton "has all the necessary qualifications to become president" - and that he thought Clinton would win.

Mr. Cuomo, too, rejected the scenario, put forward by a newsman, that a disgruntled assemblage of delegates - feeling that Clinton was down too far in the polls to win - would turn to someone else, perhaps to the New York governor himself. And he once again said that the reason he did not run earlier - he was too busy working on state budget problems - still would keep him from getting into the race.

And yet, in disclosing his advice to Clinton, Cuomo seemed to be telling us about how he would have made the race.

"I think," he said he told Clinton, "that what Americans desperately want is sweet strength. They want someone who is very strong and very sure and throws off that self-assured confidence of his own truth.

"But they want it to be sweet. They don't want it to be ugly. They don't want it to be antagonistic. They don't like negatives. We are kidding ourselves if we think we make ourselves strong with negatives. We've got to try to make this a positive, sweet-strength campaign."

"You don't run against Perot," Cuomo added. "You don't run against Bush. You do run against policies. But you have to finish your talk by saying: `Here's what we do that's positive.' "

Once again we were seeing Mario Cuomo's eyes light up as he talked about how to get to the White House. And reporters were talking afterward about this rather "magic" moment - when Cuomo was again sounding like he was the candidate.

For years now Cuomo has had what might be called a love-hate relationship with seeking the presidency. But he has continued to walk right up to the threshold of running and then, to the disappointment of his millions of supporters, to step back.

Again, one has to wonder: If at the convention the delegates would turn to him with this plea, "Please run, Mario; we need you; you're our main hope; you're our only hope," could he possibly say, "No"?

David Broder had just written in the Washington Post of a slim possibility that unhappy Democratic officeholders and candidates might turn to someone other than Clinton - if he continued to look like a sure loser.

But how could these politicians prevail upon the Clinton delegates to move away from their candidate after he won most of the Democratic primaries? Back when the political leaders, not the delegates, were in control, a shift away from Clinton would have been easy to orchestrate. But no more.

And yet, the unpredictable still is the norm in politics. The unexpected happens again and again.

And should lightning strike, the party may well turn to that eloquent, charismatic New York governor who, this time, might not find it in his heart to say "No."

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