Donald Lambro

The first is her weakness in Iowa, where former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, her party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee, continues to lead among Democrats. That sets up a loss in the first contest of 2008 that could cut into her front-runner status, opening up a narrow window of opportunity for her nearest rivals.

The second is her persistently high negatives, as measured by polls that ask voters whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of each of the candidates. Her unfavorable scores are in the mid-40s nationally, but climb close to 50 in several battleground states, raising fears about her electability.

Brazile, who has staked out a new role in her party as an independent voice who knows more about minority turnout than anyone, has the heft to criticize her party's front-runner without alienating its base. And her criticism rippled through Democratic Party ranks last week with the speed of an e-mail message. She sought to disabuse Hillary's strategists of the notion that Bill can be the winning factor in her campaign. On the contrary, he can help raise a lot of money and perhaps even boost voter turnout a little, but he cannot win the election for her, Brazile said.

"In the end, it's all about Hillary Clinton -- not the other Clinton," she said. Then there is Hillary's posture as a Washington insider who is part and parcel of the government's establishment. That is not a good position to hold at a time when voters want someone to come in from the outside to sweep out the old established order.

"All signs point to voters electing an experienced outsider to take control of Washington -- an area Bill Clinton won't be helpful," Brazile said. "She must inspire us to win and show us that she can lead us out of this dismal state of gridlock. If she can't do that on her own, then no one, not even Bill, can save her," she said.

Last week, Hillary seemed to be sending a message that she can't do it on her own, that her husband will be helping her make the decisions and that the "change" she wants is to restore both of them in the presidency.

Brazile, a Democrat who is tightly plugged into the party's base, thinks that kind of campaign would be the kiss of death for the Democrats in 2008. Obama thinks so, too.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.