Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hillary has a bad week, solidifies lead

For the first time during this elongated presidential season Hillary Clinton has looked vulnerable. Following a lackluster performance at a New Hampshire debate last week, Hillary found her signature "cackle" -- the one she employees to deflect unpleasant questions -- or to signal to the humans that she might be one of them -- being mocked and dissected everywhere from the New York Times to The Daily Show. On top of that, her campaign's ruthless (and secretive) handling of fundraising and the press has been coming under increased scrutiny.

So this should be a good time for her Democratic rivals, right?

Wrong. In fact the latest national polling shows Hillary with her largest primary lead yet. And from what I can gather main challenger Barak Obama's entire electoral strategy is now dependent on turning out 17-year old caucus eligible Iowans who only use cell phones.

Still, whether it is because they don't want to attack a woman, or are afraid of women, or are afraid of Clintons, or harbor some sort of misguided Quixote-like sense of "elevated" campaign rhetoric, the other Democrats seeking the presidency remain reluctant to attack the former First Lady directly.

But that doesn't mean they won't lash out at each other. And lash out was what John Edwards did today, accusing Barack Obama of stealing this ideas.

Now you could make the argument that Barack Obama isn't the most nimble of politicians -- here is a man who, despite being blessed with as much money, publicity and positive buzz as any new political figure in recent memory, has only lost momentum since his introduction as a national candidate. But I'm sure even Obama realizes you are not going to get anywhere stealing John Edwards's ideas. You know, the same ideas that have seen Edwards max out at around 20 percent support in two primary cycles.

So what exactly are these pilfered"ideas?" Well, Edwards's campaign cites "health care," "poverty" and "eliminating nuclear weapons."

Without getting into a philosophical discussion of how an "idea" is formed and who, if anybody, owns an "idea," I will say I do get why Edwards's campaign wants to present Obama as a "thief" on health care and poverty. But nuclear disarmament?

Big during the Cold War, nuclear disarmament has disappeared as a political talking point during recent years. In part because the countries we are most worried about on that front probably don't yet have nuclear weapons to disarm, and, even if they did, aren't known to respect treaties. And in part because if the completely unobtainable goal of true nuclear disarmament were to be reached it would be ultimately most beneficial to the country with the most powerful military without nukes. Since this country is the United States, it's hard to believe an American president would get very far pushing reciprocal nuclear disarmament on the world stage.

Maybe Obama will strike back against Edwards's copy cat charges by claiming the former North Carolina Senator is ripping off his ideas on how to stop stagflation.

Hillary might hit a couple more rough spots before the convention in Denver, but she is sure to keep benefiting from the consistent ineffectualness of her competition.

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