Unfortunately for Hillary, she has a couple of potentially formidable challengers who just might do the Republicans' work for them in highlighting her flagrant inconsistencies. How she handles this obstacle will be of critical importance for her viability in the general election.
Under different circumstances Hillary might be able to get away with mildly snubbing the base by maintaining a more centrist position on the war and preserving her wider appeal for 2008. But she's bound to be afraid of such a risky gambit, given the current unpopularity of the war with the general electorate. The ultimate irony might be unfolding: the very unpopularity of the war that Democrats have been promoting could be the undoing of their most promising candidate.
Hillary is acutely aware of her dilemma and has apparently decided to pull out all the stops -- for now -- to regain favor with the base. In that spirit she has made some patently ridiculous statements of late, like her promise to end the war -- presto chango -- if it hasn't ended by her crowning in January 2008 and her threat to confiscate and redistribute oil company profits.
Similarly, contenders Obama and Edwards will continue to compete with Hillary for the distinction of being the most liberal in the primary without being unelectable in the general.
With all of this occurring Republicans just might be able to squeak back into congressional power and hold on the presidency despite their irrepressible inclination to alienate their own base and their failure -- so far -- to produce a presidential candidate without major electoral disabilities.
If Mitt Romney is unable to convince conservatives he's the real deal and if some other truly conservative dark horse doesn't surprise us and catch fire pretty soon, conservatives, in November 2008, will be faced with a choice between a dovish social liberal and a hawkish social liberal.
Or, if they're lucky, the choice will be between a dovish social liberal and a hawk who, while not socially conservative, will promise to honor the Constitution by appointing originalist judges.
Like it or not, it appears we're living in an era of the politically uninspiring.
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