November 23, 2007


Clinton Hits Rough Patch: As Iowa Showdown Nears Rivals Strike From Left As She Courts Center; 'Responsibility Gene' (JACKIE CALMES, November 23, 2007, Wall Street Journal)

Sen. Clinton views her campaign as a template for her possible presidency. Having witnessed Bill Clinton's early struggles reconciling campaign promises with governing -- and guided by his private advice now -- she knows first hand that what candidates say now for political points can haunt them as president. Close advisers call this caution her "responsibility gene."

The result: As the front-runner, Sen. Clinton has drawn attacks from Democratic rivals at a crucial moment on topics ranging from Iran to taxes, even while holding positions that could serve her well in a general-election campaign, or as president. She will be tested further with four more Democratic debates in December, before the ultimate test -- in the opening nominating contest Jan. 3 in Iowa.

In two recent polls of likely Iowa caucus-goers, Sen. Clinton was slightly ahead in one, but her chief rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, had retaken the edge in the other. A decisive Clinton victory in Iowa potentially could clinch the nomination; a loss, or even a close call, makes her vulnerable in the states that follow.

No first-time candidate before has juggled these conflicting considerations in quite this way, because none has ever run from Sen. Clinton's unique position. She is far ahead in national polls for the nomination, her party is favored in polls to win the 2008 presidential election, and she has personal experience moving from campaign trail to White House. Typically, presidential candidates go a step at a time, focusing like lasers on the nomination, pivoting to the center only when it's in hand, and worrying about promises made once inside the West Wing.

Sen. Clinton's aides said she was unavailable for an interview. But interviews with numerous advisers, associates and even Republicans attested to her success this year in methodically building her lead over rival Democrats with tireless stumping and discipline. She gained ground by taking rough edges off her imperious image, and promoting her experience and competence, in the process persuading many doubting Democrats that she is "electable."

Now, her party foes are nervous and even desperate as the days dwindle to the first, potentially make-or-break vote in Iowa, the only state where polls show a tight race. They are all firing at her, aiming where she is most vulnerable -- her reputation as too cautious and calculating. Stoking the conflict are Republicans, who report their first uptick in donations to party headquarters in many months, thanks to a recent stream of "stop-Hillary" fund-raising emails. And Sen. Clinton, by her own hedging on several issues, has provided ammunition.

The jeopardy for her is that one Democrat could emerge from the pack to be the "un-Hillary," consolidating support from voters to try to deny her the nomination. Her challenge is to prevent that, but without undoing what real progress she has made, according to polls, in appealing to a broader swath of the electorate.

To the contrary, W ran exactly the same campaign, which forced him Right in SC, costing him Catholic and independent support and the 2000 election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 23, 2007 11:13 AM

"costing him...the 2000 election."?

Posted by: Brad at November 23, 2007 6:55 PM

Costing W a majority in the popular vote count. I suppose if HRC looses the popular vote but wins a narrow electoral victory she'll be singing the praises of the electoral college and saying how wise the founders were to incorporate it into our system (She'll also bash W for abusing the electoral college in 2000).

Posted by: Dave W at November 24, 2007 11:34 AM