Nowhere in the Penn/Wolfson/Solis Doyle textbook does the following equation appear: Inevitability = Vulnerability.
But the microtargeting and triangulating in the Democratic race these days takes aim at the aura of invincibility surrounding Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. And the only thing that looks inevitable now is that a race is on for the Democratic nomination.
It's enough to make the Clinton campaign feel the walls are closing in -- or maybe that the stage is falling down.
To the careful answers, the closed-off access, and the slash-and-burn rapid response team, we add this damaging element: Questioners as plants (gasp!). Two incidents of staffers coaching "real people" have emerged publicly, and you know the drill from here: The Clinton campaign admitted that it happened, said the senator didn't know it was happening, and promises that it won't happen again, ABC's Eloise Harper reports. (Anyone think they really did it only twice?)
It is easier to have a conversation with voters when your campaign has a pretty good idea of what they're interested in before you step in the room. But tradition trumps all in the Iowa caucuses (and New Hampshire primaries), and caucus-goers don't like to feel played.
Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., didn't need prompting: "What George Bush does is plant questions and exclude people from events, and I don't think that's what Democrats want to see in Iowa," Edwards said yesterday, per the Des Moines Register's Tony Leys.
Per The Nation's Ari Melber: "The reports of a planting pattern come at a tough time for Clinton, who was widely criticized for being evasive during the last presidential debate. Faking questions is a particularly serious charge in Iowa, where caucus-goers are notoriously proud of their unique democratic process."
It's grist for the liberal blogosphere, who see shades of Bush "town hall meetings" and fake FEMA news conferences.
And it feeds the arguments of Clinton's top rivals, just as the race is giving them the opening they need. ("Turn up the heat," Clinton rallied on Saturday night. Advice taken.)
"The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do it in this election," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said at Saturday's Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray report in The Washington Post. "That's why not answering questions because we're afraid our answers won't be popular just won't do it."
The weekend belonged to Obama, from the J-J through "Meet the Press." "The Obama campaign owned the theatrics," David Chalian writes in the ABC write-up of Saturday night's dinner. "Obama supporters silently waved their O-shaped symbols of hope back and forth welcoming their competition to the stage. Obama's entrance came courtesy of the voice of the Chicago Bulls introducing the candidate onto the stage at which time his supporters were cued to turn on their light sticks which carried the names of each of Iowa's 99 counties."
"Barack Obama's speech at tonight's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa took him back to the roots of his stardom," writes the New Republic's Michael Crowley.