As a Republican, I have watched in fascination as many in my party, the media and most of the Democrats have not only all but given Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination, but have continually speculated how she will do against the Republican nominee. As they do this, I can't help but wonder how real life, human nature, media reporting, take-no-prisoner politics and recent history will play into such predictions.
In conversations I've had with two well-placed Democrats, they are anything but confident about Mrs. Clinton securing the nomination. According to them, if she goes on to lose Iowa, then "all bets are off."
If either Barack Obama or John Edwards beats Mrs. Clinton in Iowa, a strong case can then be made that Mr. Edwards, not Mrs. Clinton, not Mr. Obama, will be the eventual Democratic nominee. That case would be built on the strong desire — bordering on desperation — of Democratic voters, and some in the media, to bring an end to eight years of Republican White House rule.
While Democrats won't talk about it publicly as it goes against their vow of political correctness, behind the scenes, a number of them wonder if the America of 2008 will be "open-minded and mature enough" to actually elect a woman or an African American. Former Rep. Harold Ford dealt with this question during his run for the Senate in Tennessee in 2006. What pollsters discovered is that whatever number of voters said they were going to vote for Mr. Ford, they had to subtract about 10 percentage points from that number to get close to the truth. Will such a scenario plague Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama? Recent history indicates it could.
If the Democratic primary voters get skittish with regard to the overall electability of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, who will be the natural beneficiary? Politics of the day seem to point toward Mr. Edwards.
Again, let's take a look at recent history. It has been suggested that, back in 2003, neither mainstream Democrats nor many in the media felt Howard Dean had what it took to defeat the despised George W. Bush in 2004.
While that is a subject that can be debated, what cannot be argued is that in December 2003, Mr. Dean had an all but "insurmountable" lead over John Kerry. It was at that time that generic stories started to spring up "reporting" that Mr. Dean seemed to be dropping a bit with Mr. Kerry rising. Next, just 11 days before the Iowa Caucus, NBC News dropped a bomb on Mr. Dean with their "unearthed" clips of Mr. Dean from a Canadian news show titled "The Editors." The clip NBC showcased was one from 1999 where Mr. Dean seemed to criticize the process in Iowa.