Victor Davis Hanson

If polls are accurate, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s once-sure bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is now not so sure. Her wide lead vanished without warning in Iowa and New Hampshire — and maybe elsewhere as well.

Was it due to her waffling on issues like the Iraq war and driver’s licenses for illegal aliens? Or was her campaign too smug — like that of similarly sputtering Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani — assuming she should be coronated by the polls and media rather than having to fight for the nomination tooth and nail?

Or is it just that her upbeat, confident rival, Barack Obama — with a little help from Oprah — is surging as he bests her in back-and-forth quips?

Hillary’s campaign is so stalled that her advisers have tried dredging up Obama’s kindergarten essays and his admitted drug use. And now they’re resorting to flying in Bill Clinton to save the day. Some polls and conventional wisdom suggest he may yet restore his wife’s fortunes.

But Bill’s not exactly a fireman. He may instead throw gasoline on the fire.

First, his vote-getting abilities are suspect. He never won 50 percent of the vote in a presidential election. That fact and the embarrassment of his impeachment were why Vice President Al Gore kept him away from his 2000 campaign. True, Bill’s presence is said to resonate with African-American voters, but most may prefer Obama anyway, as polls now show in South Carolina.

Second, Bill Clinton often comes across as a narcissist. He talks the longest and loudest about himself. It is almost impossible for first-person Bill to praise Hillary without adding, “When I was president” or “I had a vision.”

Third, Bill cannot always distinguish truth from fiction. In his rescue mission for Hillary, he has already weighed in on the Iraq war — in which he falsely claimed that he was against it from the very beginning.

Most recently, in a dig at Obama’s lack of experience, Bill claims that he nixed an earlier run for the presidency in 1988 because he saw that he wasn’t yet ready for the job. But the real reason more likely was worry about the less-than-desirable and now well-known aspects of his personal life. That tendency to dwell on — and fudge — his own past earns splashy headlines but takes attention away from his wife.

Fourth, Americans may not be comfortable with a spouse of an ex-president running for commander-in-chief. Alabama’s governor George Wallace once had his wife, Lurleen, run as his replacement when he was no longer eligible. Despite Lurleen’s victory, that staged succession seemed fishy — sort of like the current husband/wife switcheroo of former and current president Mr. and Mrs. Kirchner down in Argentina.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.