Paradox: Hillary seems both inevitable and inconceivable to me. Part of me says, "There's no stopping her," and the other part says, "Hold on, do you realize what you're saying? This is Hillary Clinton we're talking about! No way." On the bright side, the inevitability applies mostly to her nomination, and the inconceivability to the general election.
I think most people, including commentators, have considered her nomination a foregone conclusion.
This consensus was briefly threatened during Barack Obama's initial deification by the media, but then it was pretty much restored. After the mainstream media's early infatuation with Obama wore off, they were back to worshiping at Hillary's altar, both promoting and protecting her.
They called her "presidential," "inevitable" and "experienced" and said she was running an error-free campaign. Actually, the media were just ignoring her mistakes, inconsistencies and embarrassingly unpresidential episodes, as when she patronizingly spoke in black dialect to an African-American audience.
The media didn't just shield her errors. They also insulated her from the ordinary scrutiny all other presidential candidates receive. They allowed her to choose what she wanted to talk about and what questions she would answer. With few exceptions, they gave her a pass.
When her rivals and Tim Russert dared to challenge her on a couple of important issues in a recent debate, she reacted with the indignation of a royal sovereign whose prerogative was beyond questioning. But the Hillary invulnerability bubble finally burst when just a few opponents and one MSM reporter questioned her highness.
Without her full court "press," Hillary's invincibility erodes. She has been slipping in the Iowa polls, and on Sunday, Obama pulled ahead of her, 29 percent to 25 percent, with John Edwards nipping at their heels at 23 percent. Other polls, like the ABC/Washington Post poll and American Research Group, corroborated Hillary's decline.
The same trend could be emerging in New Hampshire, the other important early-state contest. There, her lead over Obama has shrunk to barely above the margin of error, 35 percent to 29 percent.
Even more interesting are the "internals" from the ABC/Post poll and what they might be whispering to Obama, if he'll listen. Hillary beats Obama on measures of "strength, experience and electability" (57 percent to 10 percent), while Obama dwarfs Clinton on "new direction and new ideas" (44 percent to 19 percent). But fortunately for Obama, both Iowa and New Hampshire voters consider "new direction and new ideas" more important than "strength and experience."