Nearly a year ago Hillary Clinton kicked off her presidential campaign stating that she was “in it to win.” Despite being anointed the national frontrunner and prohibitive favorite to win both the Democratic nomination and even the general election, however, when the first opportunity came to count votes in the Iowa caucuses last night she promptly lost to Barack Obama.
The Hillary campaign will try to spin this result as a good showing in a state where she faced an uphill battle. But given her fundraising, her name recognition, her husband’s popularity and campaigning, along with her early and large leads in the polls it can’t be denied that this is a damaging loss.
Hillary began the race with significant advantages. Using connections developed during her husband’s administration she raised unprecedented amounts of money. Her celebrity status gave her an enormous amount of media time and name recognition. She put together what was quickly labeled a veteran, loyal, and disciplined campaign staff. She had the backing and organization of the political establishment across the country and a former two term president as her closest strategist and most fervent campaigner. As the first credible female candidate for president, Hillary was believed to exert a powerful pull on the critical female vote.
Hillary leveraged this into large leads in national polls and her campaign took on the aura of inevitability; that never stuck with voters. After a rough debate started a round of negative media, she found herself in a hard fought battle in Iowa and soon in New Hampshire and even South Carolina.
Hillary tried out what seemed like an endless series of themes and campaign slogans. She tried various combinations of change, strength and experience. She tried an emphasis on the middle class. She tried negative attacks on Obama’s character and his lack of experience. She tried to “humanize” her perception among voters; even going so far as to campaign with her mom and daughter. She rolled out websites to spin, respond to scandal, and show video testimonials to the real Hillary; someone who was friendly and open, warm and engaging. But her campaign was motion without direction.