Jerry Falwell died. What does Hillary Clinton care about? His death is inconvenient to her campaign.
A few will speak bad of Falwell. Whatever Clinton believes, she cannot. Although she is liberal, and Falwell was conservative, and that she is, for all practical purposes, an a-philosophical secular humanist and he was a Christian, she can only say good things.
We expect George W. Bush to say nice things. He essentially agreed with Falwell on politics and theology on the high points. And, he is the president.
Inconvenient to Hillary Clinton is that she has no choice. While her numbers are slipping to Barack Obama, and the race is becoming dustier, she will release a statement saying he was a good man who respected the political process and lived what he believed. She might finish it with reminding people that, after all, this is the American way of freedom.
Inconvenient to Hillary Clinton is that whatever defines today's conservative politics will be highlighted, and its good points will be in the news. She needs this refuted, but, in respect for his family, and his supporters, she will not. To do so means losing some of the middle ground voters she dearly needs, the ones Barack Obama's campaign is sweeping off their feet.
For Obama, he is helped because he is considered by a small faction as having some semblance of Christian faith. Few believe it impacts his day-to-day life in the same way it does Bush or, perhaps, Romney, but, to those who like a man of character, Obama can gain a few voters from the Hillary camp. She's seen as a political fighter, and Obama still enjoys a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" innocence.
Obama, though, wins much more than a few votes. He wins continued momentum. Once that momentum hits critical mass, people will bandwagon "just because" the same way Bill Clinton's followers tagged on late into his campaign. The male Clinton became unstoppable. Obama has that potential.
It will not be Hillary, that's all that is certain. Very few will like Edwards either, thanks to his anti-Catholic staffers mouthing off.
Who wins among Republicans?
Maybe Mitt Romney. The trouble is that, although he is generally conservative, he is a Mormon. Whether Falwell's supporters can accept this is a unknown. From what I have read, there is no consensus yet among conservative Christians (which includes more than evangelicals, but many among Catholics and mainline denominations) who to support.
The speeches remembering Jerry Falwell, whether intended or not, will be quoted in the media. Who gets quoted will gain support, simple as that.
When the conservative Christians decide, it won't be like an Amish community which makes it collectively. It will be, as always, a vast, disconnected, swelling that overtakes unexpectedly. When John Kerry lost the only election he could have ever won, it was largely because of the difficult to poll conservative Christians.
That vague group, conservative Christians, vote because, in part, Jerry Falwell encouraged them. Just as his predecessor, Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged Christians to vote, Falwell helped reduce the fear of voting's insignificance. One vote does little. A million votes does a lot.
King's reliance on his faith to lead, to speak, and, ultimately, to give his life, is, in many ways, like Falwell's. For King, his focus was specific, and made, then, a specific impact. Falwell's focus was general, and so it is harder to pinpoint his impact.
All to say, Jerry Falwell may influence the 2008 Presidential Election more in death than he may have been able to in life.