Monday, November 12, 2007

Inevitability? What inevitability?

There has long been talk about whether Senator Clinton winning the Democratic nomination for the presidency is inevitable. The reason for the expectations of inevitability is obvious. Blind loyalty to the Clintons has become a defining pillar of contemporary liberalism.

This tradition of blind loyalty to the Clintons left her rivals for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards, with a dilemma: how to argue that he was more qualified to be president than Senator Clinton without implying that she was unqualified to be president. Their initial solution to the problem was to accept both premises and run upbeat, entirely positive campaigns. While there was still time, they could promote their candidacies without criticising her overtly; this strategy worked wonders for "Saint" Obama, but not as well for Edwards.

Relatively recently, this electoral strategy begain breaking down. Both Obama and Edwards were behind in the polls in the early primary states with the primary dates becoming uncomfortably close. Their refusal to overtly criticize Clinton left them looking like mere minions of the Clintons, as if they so weak-minded that they would rather accept a humiliating and possibly career-ending election loss rather than take the most elementary steps to salvage their campaigns. This was the crisis point for their candidacies. Staring defeat in the face, Obama and Edwards finally had to decide how much they wanted to be president. As it turns out, they wanted it rather badly after all, so they went on the attack.

Amazingly, the attacks actually worked surprisingly well, with the mainstream media even picking up on them and not dismissing them out of hand. For the first time since the defeat of HillaryCare in the 1990s, Senator Clinton was actually confronted with a political reality that wasn't happily rewriting itself to conform to the dictates of her will. The aura of inevitability began to waver and fade. Then, just today, this happened (hyperlinks removed):
ABC News' Eloise Harper and Rick Klein Report: It's been a rough stretch for Hillary Clinton -- a tough debate performance, a lost voice, and the revelation that the Clinton campaign had been coaching questioners at events.

Then, on Sunday, everything started falling down around her.

After a very Presidential-esque news conference - Clinton turned around to leave the reporters and their peppering questions. A staffer swooped open a curtain, and chaos ensued. Four large American flags came crashing in front of Senator Clinton as she headed for the door. In a controlled panic, the staffers and the Senator attempted to catch the flags before they fell to the ground.
This isn't the kind of thing that just happens by accident. When a presidential candidate's set decorations "spontaneously" collapse around him or her, it is a message from powerful people on the inside of the campaign to the public that they want that candidate to lose. A notorious example in recent memory was Senator Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign (my boldface):
Without meaningful primary opposition, Clinton was able to focus on the general election early, while Dole was forced to move to the right and spend his campaign reserves fighting off challengers. Political adviser Dick Morris urged Clinton to raise huge sums of campaign funds via soft money for an unprececented early TV blitz of swing states promoting Clinton's agenda and record. As a result, Clinton could run a campaign through the summer defining his opponent as an aged conservative far from the mainstream before Dole was in a position to respond. Compared to the 50-year old Clinton, Dole appeared especially old and frail, as illustrated by an embarrassing fall off a stage during a campaign event.


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