George Will

She, the afterthought, arrived in New Hampshire spoiling for a fight but missing the point. Mountaineering on molehills, she said Obama has changed some positions. But people inebriated by "hope" for "change" are not smitten about issues, concerning which the differences between him and her must be measured by ideological micrometers. Voters are attracted to him as iron filings are to a magnet. Mind hardly enters into this response to his nimbus of novelty, and it is impossible to reason people out of affiliations they have not been reasoned into.

The Clintons' decision to cast the election as a bridge back to the 1990s -- to themselves; another bridge to nowhere -- has her campaign, in characteristically retrospective mode, stressing that by the time her husband won his first 1992 contest, in Georgia, he had lost six others.

But Georgia's primary was on March 3, a month later than this year's Feb. 5, 22-state cymbal-crash event. Jay Cost, a University of Chicago doctoral candidate, notes that although Clinton did indeed lose seven of the first nine contests, he lost to four different competitors: Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey, Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown. That limp down memory lane underscores how much time has flown since the Clintons were fresh faces.

Iowa's results created what Sen. Clinton had hoped to delay for many weeks -- a binary choice, her against one rival. Now she, like her rival, must show her steel. Republicans must show staying power.

Huckabee -- Where is Pakistan? Who is Darwin? Why is Wall Street so icky to Main Street? -- might be a fluke of the nominating schedule that put Iowa, planted thick with evangelicals, first. He won just 14 percent of Iowa's nonevangelicals, among whom he finished fourth. Where would McCain be if the schedule had not offered him an early chance to romance New Hampshire again? Giuliani, supposedly able to compete in the Northeast, spent $3 million on advertising without elevating his New Hampshire numbers, but he waits down the road, where 97.2 percent of the convention delegates -- the currency by which the prize will be purchased -- remain unallocated.

A marathon would reveal almost everything relevant about the candidates. If, afterward, either party suffers buyers' remorse, the buyers will have no one to blame.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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