Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Expectations Game

The national media clearly relishes the closeness of the Democratic race, perhaps because no one can really figure out what is happening on the Republican side. The concerted attempt after the Philadelphia debate to raise questions about Hillary has worked, to the extent that it's given Edwards and Obama a sustained line of attack on her frontrunning campaign - something they were apparently unable to come up with on their own.

We're now at the point where a single outlying poll showing a small Obama lead (numerous other polls taken last week showed a Hillary lead) can be used to drive the political discussion about Hillary's troubles for another week. Whether other polls out this week from Iowa show a Hillary lead or not, the basic storyline is likely to remain the same for the foreseeable future - Hillary's once high-flying campaign is now locked in a battle for survival in Iowa.

Yet, six weeks out from the Iowa caucuses this is in many ways a desirable spot for Hillary to be in. If this sustained media/rival campaign attack does not succeed in putting her out of the running (which if the last 3 weeks are any proof, it certainly won't) the storyline will inevitably shift to Hillary's staying power, her strength in the face of a daily barrage of attacks from not only Obama and Edwards, but the Republicans. Further questions will be raised of her opponents and if either come to be perceived as narrowly ahead that shifts some pressure off Hillary as well, allowing her to reduce expectations. One can imagine Hillary surviving an early loss in Iowa, but it's difficult to imagine how Obama or Edwards could.

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