Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Right on Schedule

At some point in the primary campaign there comes the inevitable article about how the front-runner could lose it all. Right on cue, Walter Shapiro in Salon.com provides the goods on how Hillary Clinton could tank.

It is a paradox of the presidential primary season: Democratic voters — and, yes, reporters — claim to crave a wide-open, spirited fight for the nomination, yet simultaneously are eager to pronounce the race over before a single vote has been cast. From Ed Muskie in 1972 to Howard Dean four years ago, history should have taught handicappers that betting the mortgage money on the odds-on favorite is a mug’s game.

Hillary Clinton is the latest beneficiary of this premature rush to certainty. Clinton’s meet-her-again-for-the-first-time rollout has softened her image, repositioned her as the Democrats’ most experienced candidate, airbrushed away her years of ambivalence on the Iraq war and turned her 1994 healthcare reform debacle into a scars-to-prove-it asset. At the same time, her campaign has shown uncharacteristic flashes of boldness from small matters (putting together a “Sopranos” parody video in a week, featuring Bill and Hillary) to large (matching John Edwards with a full-coverage-for-everyone healthcare plan).

All this has led to the latest episode of I-is-for-Inevitability. Despite the growing (and, in some cases, the grudging) sense that the former first lady’s nomination is preordained and the primaries mere formalities, Clinton still must avoid a dirt-road-in-rainy-season ration of potholes on the way to the Denver Convention.

He then lists the Top Ten Ways Sen. Clinton could blow it, ranging from the inevitable Major Gaffe like Ed Muskie’s tears or the Dean Scream to the Bill Factor, Republican schemes, and the Unexpected, like…something nobody expects.

Well, yeah; thanks for making that obvious point. I can’t help but think that I’ve read the same articles every four years about the front-runner, along with its counterpart, the detailed article where the reporter makes a very solid case as to why Paul Tsongas or Scoop Jackson could surprise everyone and pull out a win.

This isn’t to say Sen. Clinton is not, as Mr. Shapiro, notes, “the most likely person to be both the Democratic nominee and the next president.” But it does give him bragging rights if by some chance he happens to be right on both counts.