For the past year, I, like millions of others, have been bewildered by TV’s talking heads, always assuring us that Hillary — before a single vote was cast, before a surge attack ad was made, before a single blunder or mini-crisis occurred — was to be coronated as the Democratic nominee and would inevitably go on to beat any Republican rival. (Many instead thought ‘Never underestimate the ability of Bill Clinton to do damage to those around him’ ).
Now after the first week of the primary season, these same geniuses are deifying Obama (formerly trashed as running a “surprisingly” dismal and uninspiring campaign) to the skies and writing Clinton’s post mortem — even as her national polls are still even or ahead of Obama. Something similar is true of McCain as well — once worshiped, then pitied, and now admired.
What comes across to the viewer is the near complete absence of any independent judgment; instead, the 24-hour buzz makes someone hot or cold, and the pundits adjust accordingly with praise or blame. We’ve seen this before with the Gary Hart, Howard Dean, and Ross Perot pet-rock like craze — which are not that unusual in the popular landscape of radically democratic cultures such as our own.
The truth is that what a few thousand Americans think in Iowa and New Hampshire does not trump the tens of millions in states like Florida, New Jersey, New York, and California. The Clinton and Giuliani campaigns were based on this fact, and could still work — as long as the perceived momentum achieved by Obama or Huckabee among tiny populations in these two early states, amplified and exaggerated by spin doctors on television, does not cause second and third thoughts in voters of these key mega-states, inasmuch as most have no firm or fixed views other than a desire to be associated with a winner.
Hillary is not comatose, but instead at a crossroads. If she distances herself from Bill, goes silent about her First Lady years, stops the play-safe, don’t-blow-it-fourth-quarter strategy, and instead takes risks, talks about what she’s going to do in simple, blunt terms, gives more interviews, answers impromptu questions at her campaign stops, jettisons the canned laugh for real give and take, she could recover in two weeks.
Left unsaid is that America will soon — thanks to input from the shadows from various hitmen from the Clinton 1992/1996 team — be hearing a lot more details about the relatively unknown life and views of one Barrack Obama and those around him.
Right now voters know almost everything about Hillary and are troubled by that knowledge; they know almost nothing about Obama, and are happy for that ignorance — but that too can change, since she has nothing left to disclose or lose, he everything.