December 12, 2007

Hillary's Firewall -- A Political Maginot Line?

Hillary Clinton has begun to shift resources to New Hampshire as part of a firewall strategy after seeing Iowa slip from her grasp. However, it may be too late for the Granite State to contain the collapse of her once-invincible primary campaign. CNN shows a dead heat now in New Hampshire, as Hillary has squandered her lead:

Barack Obama has chipped away at Hillary Clinton’s lead in New Hampshire, and the two Democratic presidential hopefuls are now locked in a statistical tie less than one month before the first-in-the-nation primary, a CNN/WMUR Poll released Wednesday shows.

Clinton has dropped 5 percentage points since the CNN/WMUR November survey, while Obama has gained 8 percentage points, according to the poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Clinton is now at 31 percent to Obama’s 30 percent.

A loss here would prove devastating to Hillary. She has had a consistent lead in the state that breathed new life into her husband's faltering campaign in 1992, and a loss to Obama would have the opposite effect. It would give the one-term Senator national credibility and access to even more fundraising than the prodigious amounts he has already accumulated. It leaves the myth of her inevitability in tatters, and opens the door to the harder Left that supports Obama.

This collapse in Hillary's fortunes seems much like that of Howard Dean in early 2004. Like Dean, she started the collapse with a poor debate performance and has never recovered. She has relied on nasty attacks on Barack Obama's kindergarten essays and open calls for dirt on her opponent. Obama has made himself look presidential by comparison, and even Hillary's supporters like Robert Reich wonder how she has made such a mess of her campaign.

On the Republican side, the news remains good for Mitt Romney. The Mike Huckabee surge has not hit the Granite State; he only has 9% of the vote among primary voters. The news gets much worse for Fred Thompson, who barely registers at 1%. The Thompson boomlet has not caught fire in either Iowa or New Hampshire, and without any early momentum, the Thompson campaign has little chance of gaining any traction at all. They've decided to throw all in for Iowa in the hope that a strong third- or surprise second-place finish could move the polls in other states, but that seems like a tremendous long shot now.


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