THE NOTE: Can Clinton Be Stopped?

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The world according to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: It's over -- game, set, match. That fund-raising edge you thought you had, Barack? We floss our teeth with it ("through the roof"). Experience counts, and we were aiming for the White House back when you were editing the law review. Look at the scoreboard (particularly today's numbers). (And by the way, we have Matt Drudge's direct dial.)

The world according to Sen. Barack Obama: The game has changed -- and nobody else gets that yet. The front-runner remains a fundamentally flawed candidate (who voted for the war -- and did we mention she voted for the war?). We've still raised more money than the establishment candidate. The fight has not yet begun. We'll take our smile over your laugh. (And by the way, the country is almost as sick of Clintons as it is of Bushes.)

The real world: Neither Clinton nor Obama (nor a publicly funded former senator John Edwards) will win (or lose) because of money. Clinton's not as perfect a candidate as she wants us to think (don't forget the post-debate mop-up duty on torture and Iran), and Obama's not as pure a candidate as he wants us to believe (don't forget those equivocal quotes on the war).

Clinton stands stronger at this moment than at any other time in the Democratic race. But three months can be a long time in politics -- and too many people want there to be a race for there not to be (Mr. Drudge being among those with a rooting interest).

So the battle is joined -- and a new poll drops this morning to underscore the trends. This is a very big deal: Clinton, D-N.Y., enjoys her biggest lead of the year in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. She's leading 53-20 over Obama, D-Ill., with Edwards, D-N.C. registering at 13 percent.

Let the numbers sink in, though this should not be surprising: Clinton is up 13 points since last month (and surpasses the 50-percent threshold for the first time), with Obama down 7 points, to his lowest level of the year.

Perhaps most worrisome for Obama, Clinton appears to be answering voters' concerns. "Building on her dual image of leadership and electability, Hillary Clinton has advanced to her most powerful advantage of the Democratic nomination campaign, with resounding leads on key issues and personal attributes alike," ABC polling director Gary Langer writes.

The poll shows across-the-board strength for Clinton. "Despite rivals' efforts to portray her as too polarizing to win the general election, a clear majority of those surveyed, 57 percent, said Clinton is the Democratic candidate with the best chance on Nov. 4, 2008," the Post's Jon Cohen and Anne Kornblut write. "One of the central claims of Obama's campaign is that he is best suited to lower partisan tensions in Washington. But, in this poll, more see Clinton as best able to reduce partisanship. On major issues, Democrats are far more likely to trust her than her main competitors."

The release of Clinton's fund-raising numbers yesterday was a masterstroke of political timing. The Drudge Report fired up its siren just hours before Obama was set to deliver a well-hyped speech commemorating his opposition to (and her initial support for) the Iraq war. There weren't many questions left surrounding Clinton, and this haul -- and the fact that she beat Obama for the quarter, even after a fund-raising scandal -- answered some of the biggies.

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