Bill Kristol wonders why Hillary Clinton gets no credit for extending the primary season. She has won desperation primaries in New Hampshire, Texas, Ohio, and now Pennsylvania, but the narrative remains on Barack Obama and how he lost it, not how she won it. Even Obama tried to give Hillary credit for a good campaign in Pennsylvania, but as Kristol notes, only our own Allahpundit sees the genius in Hillary’s debate throwdown:

I do think I can speak for most of my fellow right-wingers when I say this: We once looked forward with unambivalent glee to the fall of the house of Clinton. Many of us still do. But we also see the liberal media failing to give Hillary Clinton the respect she deserves. So, since we conservatives believe in giving credit where credit is due, it falls to us to praise Hillary.

The fact is Hillary Clinton has turned out to be an impressive candidate. She has consistently defeated Barack Obama when her back was to the wall — first in New Hampshire, then in several big primaries on Super Tuesday, on March 4 in Ohio and Texas, and then last week in Pennsylvania, where she was outspent by almost 3 to 1, yet won handily. …

But Hillary may well be the better candidate. After all, for all the talk of Obama’s extraordinary ability to draw voters to the polls, Clinton has defeated him in the big states, including California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Obama won his home state of Illinois, but she won Florida, where both were on the ballot but didn’t campaign.

Furthermore, if you add up the votes in all the primaries and caucuses — excluding Michigan (where only Hillary was on the ballot), and imputing the likely actual totals in the four caucus states, where only percentages were reported — Clinton now trails in overall votes by only about 300,000, or about 1 percent of the total. By the end of the nominating contest, she may well be ahead on this benchmark — one not entirely to be scorned in a democracy.

Perhaps. However, the entire nominating process for the Democrats scorns democracy. The party establishment accounts for 20% of the delegates at the convention, created as superdelegates for the express purpose of overturning a close democratic decision on a nominee in case the result turns out disastrous. Why should the popular vote mean anything at the end of this process to a party who rigged the process to ignore it at their discretion?

And Hillary’s wins could be chalked up to political genius on her part, but in reality, she has run a mediocre campaign at best. She spent most of last year acting like an heir presumptive only waiting for the official coronation. In a season that screamed “change”, she ran on the nostalgia platform. When she faltered, she made strange allegations of ambition against Obama, using his kindergarten essays as evidence — and ignoring the naked Clintonian ambition to return to the White House the last seven years.

The reason Hillary remains in the race is Barack Obama’s stumbles the last two months. The press has finally started to ask tough questions of Obama, the kind Hillary has faced for the last two years, and he has responded poorly to them. Hillary has enough savvy to take advantage of these stumbles, but without them she would have been out of the race by now. The opening she has still remains narrow and completely in the hands of Obama, who could close this out with a win in Indiana — a win that looks less and less likely every time Obama or Jeremiah Wright appear on national television.

Obama at least has come to understand this, which is why he has turned down Hillary’s debate challenge. It makes him look small and fearful, but at least it allows him to play defense. Hillary has pushed him into that corner, which does give her credit for understanding how Obama’s retreat plays with the media and the electorate. However, that opening wouldn’t exist if Obama had better political skills than he does at this stage of his career.