Salena Zito

And why did they lose? In large part, because of a lack of connection with bread-and-butter Democrats.

Love him or hate him, give Bill Clinton his due: He fought for the presidency against all odds, from a small white Southern town; when he won, he delivered without ever embracing liberal elitism.

That is part of the price Hillary Clinton is paying in this primary: The party’s liberal-elite side resents Bill’s performance, especially his move to the right after winning the White House but then losing Congress in 1994.

Clinton did it to survive. But Kerry, Gore or even George W. Bush would never have compromised that way, because their elite upbringing does not allow them to think that way.

Compare this with two modern presidents who are widely remembered and admired: William Jefferson Clinton and Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Neither came from or had access to the elite system, though at times they brushed against it; when push came to shove, they rejected it for their own survival. Both deeply wanted people to like them because of their upbringings -- both came from poor families in small-town America with abusive, alcoholic fathers.

Democrats will be successful in November only if they pick a candidate who mirrors the successful tickets that won the 2006 midterm elections -- candidates who connected with average Americans.

If the candidate who emerges from this primary season echoes the liberal elitism of McGovern, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry, then Democrats should start bracing for a losing year, one they should have easily won.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.