Robert Novak

Having lost badly in Iowa to Mike Huckabee's evangelicals, Romney found himself confronted with McCain in non-evangelical New Hampshire. Since McCain hardly campaigned in Iowa and Huckabee is not a factor in New Hampshire, Romney felt himself the victim of a political tag-team match. (However, old political pro Ed Rollins, who is Huckabee's national chairman and predicted his big win in Iowa, claims Romney is in a free fall and could finish behind Huckabee here.) Indeed, Romney was surrounded during Saturday's debate, with McCain and Huckabee on the friendliest of terms with each other and Rudy Giuliani pitching in against Romney on immigration.

Clinton sounded her anti-Obama message beginning Friday morning. But she was battling Obamamania, with huge crowds attending his campaign appearances and Obama supporters dominating even Friday night's annual state Democratic fund-raising dinner. While Obama is eloquent and inspirational, Clinton plows on humorlessly with her "five-point" resolutions.

Clinton did try to lighten the Saturday night debate by taking mock offense at a question describing her as "unlikable." In fact, that is precisely the phrase used to describe her by local supporters, who are gloomy about the outcome Tuesday no matter how close the polls show the race to be.

The debate was as difficult for Clinton as Romney. Following her script that Obama could not be trusted, Clinton quoted an alleged Associated Press crack that Obama "could have had a pretty good debate with himself" (when in fact it was the AP quoting a Clinton supporter).

Instead of being the anointed leader of her party, Hillary Clinton goes into her first presidential primary after being isolated in Saturday night's debate, with Obama and John Edwards seeming to gang up on her. When a questioner noted this, the senator responded with what has become a trademark cackle. It has proved a much more difficult campaign than she ever dreamed.

Robert Novak

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

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