Sunday, January 06, 2008

It's all she has left

MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 5 -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton tried repeatedly to knock Sen. Barack Obama off his footing during a high-stakes debate here on Saturday night -- criticizing his health-care proposal and questioning his ability to bring about change and actually serve as president.

"Words are not action," she said, seeking to draw a distinction between the inspirational rhetoric that catapulted Obama into victory in the Iowa caucuses and what she said was her own long record of being an effective agent of change.

The debate came three days before a pivotal primary here, one that will set the course for the rest of the Democratic nomination battle. Obama's victory in Iowa put Clinton on the defensive and rattled her advisers, who know that a second loss on Tuesday could cripple her campaign. A pair of new polls showed the two front-runners even in New Hampshire, and one of them indicated that women are no longer breaking in favor of Clinton but are now divided between her and Obama.

In comparison with some past debates, Saturday's session produced a role reversal, with Clinton playing the scrappy underdog.

Obama repeatedly fired back at the senator from New York and found an aggressive ally in former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who portrayed Clinton as the "status quo" and himself and Obama as the two candidates promoting real change agendas, albeit with very different styles.

"I didn't hear these kinds of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead," Edwards said. "Every time [Obama] speaks out for change, every time I fight for change, the forces of status quo are going to attack -- every single time."

Clinton has already made modifications on the campaign trail, and she used the debate to repeatedly drive home her message to New Hampshire voters: Don't be swayed by Iowa, and instead take a hard look at Obama before casting your ballots.

So that's the new strategy. Play the underdog. Mrs. Bill Clinton has, until now, hung her campaign on the "fact" that she was the inevitable candidate. As far as she was concerned even showing up to campaign was an insult. But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation.

Now Mrs. Clinton is in a real fight and it is one she seems to be losing. Yes she still has a comfortable lead in the national polls, but in those states who do not have a primary on their doorstep the national polls are essentially meaningless name recognition contests. In those states which are facing an imminent primary, like New Hampshire, voters are paying attention and when the average person pays attention to Hillary Clinton they do not like what they see.

Of the three Democrat frontrunners Obama is the only one who comes off looking and sounding like a good and decent person. Clinton comes off like someone who loves power for the sake of power and will do or say anything to get it. If you present yourself to her as someone who is willing to sell his/her liberty for a government handout she has a use for you. If you are a free and independent individual then you are an enemy who must be crushed.

John Edwards, aka the Breck Girl, sounds like nothing more than a 1930's era CPUSA labor organizer spewing venomous bile about the capitalists and their evil corporations. Listen to him for five minutes and you start praying for a small army of company police armed with Thompson submachine guns and baseball bats to wade into the crowd.

Obama, who is dead wrong in every last opinion he holds about anything more important that boxers vs briefs, at least sounds like someone who is and will continue to tell the truth as he sees it. People simply like him and they do not like Hillary. He looks like he can win against a republican and Edwards doesn't.

That makes the choice very simple for Democrats who want to win in November. All it took was a voice calling from out of an Iowa cornfield saying "the empress has no clothes"*.

*Sorry for the mental picture.