Donald Lambro

"I've heard from people concerned about the kind of campaign being waged by Clinton. They want to know how you stand on the issues, but they don't want you to constantly attack your opponent, and they despise candidates who do that in a ridiculing way," Demers told me.

"I'm pleased with where we're at. Everybody always expected this to be a close race," said former Democratic state chair Kathy Sullivan, co-chair of the Clinton campaign.

But the problems that so concern Jim Splaine seem to be popping up elsewhere, though manifesting themselves in different ways.

A bipartisan George Washington University battleground 2008 poll released last week, conducted in part by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, found that all the Democratic presidential candidates had at least a plurality of voters with a favorable image of them -- except Clinton. Her unfavorables topped 50 percent.

At a campaign stop at the Antique Car Museum in Coralville, Iowa, a teen stood up among 500 people to ask Clinton how she could win the election since "a lot of people for some reason just don't like you." He added, "Without saying they should get to know you, because I think they know you."

"No they don't (know me), but that's OK; they don't want to know me," she answered defensively.

Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz, writing from the campaign trial, says her slippage in Iowa and now New Hampshire "can be summed up with the words 'trust' and 'warmth.' Democratic voters see Clinton as intelligent, strong, experienced. What they don't see is a candidate they always like or trust."

Thus, she is struggling in the early primary contests to soften her image, cutting new ads that feature her mother and daughter. But the signs keep coming that the erosion is spreading.

Two months ago, she held a 25-point lead over Obama in the California Field Poll, but last week that number narrowed significantly -- dropping to 14 percent.

"Many voters in California were kind of reflexively behind Clinton," said poll director Mark DiCamillo. "Now they're not as sure."


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.