There has been much speculation lately over whether Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in, after all, for the Democratic presidential nomination, let alone the general election. I happen to think the doubts are warranted, not so much because of Hillary's weaknesses, but those of the Democratic Party.
I used to be among those who thought the nomination was Hillary's for the taking but that she would have serious difficulties winning the general election. After observing her relentless commitment to transforming her image, however, I grudgingly softened about Hillary's general election prospects.
Sometime later, I changed my opinion again to wondering whether she even had a lock on the nomination. Lately, those doubts have been validated by certain events and the anxiety of Hillary and her handlers.
The New York Post's Deborah Orin noted that Hillary recently hired a liberal blogger and pandered to antiwar Democrats by promising to abandon Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) should he lose the primary and file as an Independent. More significantly, Democratic strategist James Carville and pollster Mark Penn co-wrote a Washington Post op-ed assuring Hillary's electability "if she does run."
What has made this woman of steel so nervous all of a sudden? We've all witnessed the antiwar left's rage at Hillary over her "betrayal" on Iraq. We've seen her dissed by Cindy Sheehan and Hollywood elites. She probably thought she could safely write off those snubs as coming from the fringe.
But a June poll in Iowa doubtlessly did get her attention. She came in second place, trailing John Edwards by four percent. This jolt has her scrambling between professing her hawkish bona-fides on the one hand (in the Washington Post), and denying them on the other in the blogosphere and her Lieberman pronouncement.
While Hillary is certainly a unique customer, most of her current dilemma is symptomatic of problems of the Democratic Party at large. Her perceived need constantly to vacillate between pro-war and antiwar positions is definitely her problem, all right, but it is also the problem of the entire party, no matter whom it chooses to nominate in 2008.
You'll recall that in 2004, Democrats chose their candidate, John Kerry, by default, because compared to the more dynamic and energizing Howard Dean, he was more "electable." Kerry was hardly anyone's first choice, and he wasn't really "electable." He was just less unelectable than the volatile, unstable Dean, whose volatility and instability better serve at the party chairmanship level, where they can fuel his fire-breathing diatribes against Republicans.