Robert Novak

But these explanations defy reality, in the opinion of Democrats not yet committed to any candidate. Hollywood, including the DreamWorks producers, was solidly behind Bill Clinton's re-election in 1996 and then Al Gore's campaign in 2000.

The real reason for not desiring a Hillary coronation, as described to me by California Democrats, is resentment of her cautious sidestep rightward over the last six years. They still cannot get over her sponsorship in 2005 of an anti-flag burning constitutional amendment. The whispered worry is that Clinton as the presidential nominee would be a loser in a year when all the stars seem aligned for a Republican defeat.

What's wrong with Clinton was pointed out by Edwards in his "Meet the Press" performance. He not only said he was "wrong" about Iraq when he first supported the intervention, but advocated universal health care and asserted: "Yes, we'll have to raise taxes." Clinton has cautiously hedged on each of these issues (as Edwards pointed out in the case of her stance on Iraq).

Edwards is not personally popular with many members of the Democratic elite, who view him as a glib but shallow trial lawyer. They remember that he began his 2000 campaign for president as a centrist Southern Democrat in the Jimmy Carter-Bill Clinton mold, but after he was not getting anywhere switched to left-wing populism. The politically viable alternative to Clinton may be Obama.

Nevertheless, Edwards's "courage" energized DNC members Feb. 2 as Clinton's "caution" did not. The point is that many Democrats, from DreamWorks to DNC, are voting no on a Hillary coronation.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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