Peggy Noonan has an interesting column today. There was an enjoyable part about the Clinton campaign:
It is a delight of democracy that now and then assumptions are confounded, that all the conventional wisdom of the past year is compressed and about to blow. It takes a Potemkin village.
A lot of observers have been declaring the Clinton campaign to be in real trouble. Her position in New Hampshire has been weakening. She is occasionally being compared unfavourably to Howard Dean, but it is actually these early signs of weakening that may hint that she will not suffer the Vermont governor’s fate. Dean was riding high in state and national polls until he slammed straight into the brick wall of actual vote tallies. The dashing of high expectations may do more damage to a primary campaign (especially if it has an extensive organisation and deep pockets) than setbacks at the polls. Now there is some reason to think that Clinton could lose Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and that has started to be factored into assessments of her chances. Pundits have already been running scenarios for what happens if she finishes third in Iowa, and her anointed status as “inevitable” has been rescinded by many of the same geniuses who bestowed it upon her in the first place. All of this makes it easier for her to survive disappointing results and what might otherwise be a sudden collapse of confidence in her candidacy. Even if she “wins ugly,” so to speak, and just ekes out a victory, she can then play Mondale to Obama’s Hart and the nomination will probably go to her.
If she now wins in two, or maybe in just one, of these contests, her campaign remains alive and you will then begin to see stories that describe how her campaign has avoided disaster and has been strengthened in the process yadda yadda yadda. I think it is true that she cannot realistically lose all three of those contests and hope to succeed (just as it is ludicrous to think that Giuliani can succeed after going 0-for-4). However, she may just need one win, and I think Obama’s current lead in these three states makes it much more crucial for him to win in all three. The real danger to both, as I’m sure others have already pointed out, is that Edwards’ strength in Iowa may be greater than the polls suggest, which is where his potential for shaking up this race is obviously greatest.