The problem for Hillary is that the shelf life on this stuff is running out. People may like the idea of returning to what Charles Krauthammer has called the "holiday from history" that was the 1990s. But nobody wants to return to the politics of the 1990s - or the 2000s, for that matter. Clinton-worship and Clinton-hatred alike feel dated, like fights over Richard Nixon.
As for the first-female-president thing, that's still got oomph, but much less than it did in the 1990s, when such vanity voting was cost-free. After 9/11 and Iraq, voting for a candidate because she's a woman seems just plain frivolous. Moreover, Hillary Clinton is in the ironic position of no longer seeming like an affirmative-action candidate. She's more of a person, less of a category. And the person's baggage crowds out the category's appeal.
My hunch is that average Americans on either side of the ideological divide recognize their dilemma. Bipartisanship is overrated, but nobody wants day one of a new presidency to begin at the partisan equivalent of DefCon 1. America is now in the grip of Mutually Assured Demonization. If the GOP throws up another Bush (or, perhaps, a Gingrich), "Blue" America will turn its missile keys. If the Democrats trot out a Gore, a Clinton or a Kerry, Red America will respond in kind. How else to explain the enormous popularity of Barack Obama, whose anagram-like name seems to spell "fresh start" for millions of Americans who know nothing about him?
That's one reason why Florida's Jeb Bush - an outstanding governor - has decided to spare his country, his party and himself another Bush on the ticket. Such selflessness is not the Clinton way. It's too soon to tell what that means for her country, her party or her.
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