For the first few debates, Hillary insisted there were little to no substantive differences among the Democratic contenders. Over time, voters took her word for it and decided that in a year when Democrats are likely to win and in a race where the policy differences are trivial, they'd rather vote for the candidate who inspires them about the future than the candidate who wearies them with memories of the past.
This points to why Clinton must have a special hatred for Obama. Perhaps not for the man but certainly for the phenomenon. Obama would have been an impressive candidate in any field. But only in a contest where Clinton sucked up most of the oxygen could Obama thrive in such rare air, accomplished as he is in deflating his lungs with outbursts of rhetoric suitable for Olympian heights. Clinton may be a fighter, and she may have claimed to be named after legendary mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary. But she was raised to fight in the trenches and unsurprisingly gets altitude sickness at the oratorical heights where Obama thrives.
There's one last problem with Clinton's positioning as the experienced candidate in the race. She is not all that experienced.
Last week, the Clinton campaign belched out an argument that felt hackneyed when used by Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. A Clinton TV ad asks voters which candidate they'd want in the White House at 3 a.m. when a crisis erupts. The tested-and-ready Clinton is supposed to be the obvious answer. But obvious to whom? How has she been tested? Such is the Clinton campaign's overweening sense of entitlement that when a reporter asked what crises Hillary has actually handled, the Clintonites had no answer at the ready.
Again, miracles happen, and Hillary may win. But come the fall, no matter who the Democratic nominee is, Democrats won't be pleased that Hillary raised the who-should-take-the-call question with John McCain in the race.