October 10, 2007
Top Down (Bob Franken)
@ 10:42 am
Let’s suppose it’s October 2008, and let’s suppose the election race had a front-runner. What would all the political reporters be doing? We’d all be dusting off Yogi Berra’s cliche that “it ain’t over till it’s over” and writing that it wasn’t over yet. And pondering the various ways things could turn around.
Granted, part of that would be our desperate effort to keep up the suspense so people cared about what we were covering, but this would also have the advantage of being true. There so many ways to blow a lead.
But people, we are in October 2007 and we’ve not only nearly declared Hillary Rodham Clinton the Democratic nominee but we’re even pondering what her presidency will be like.
There’s one teensy weensy problem, of course: There’s a long way to go between here and there. I learned my lesson once and for all in December 2003 when I went on television and ridiculed John Kerry as a candidate who had been overrun by Howard Dean.
It was just a few weeks later that we watched Dean self-immolate after Iowa and watched Kerry march past his ashes.
Of course, I was proven right about Kerry’s talents when he went down in flames against George W. Bush. But the lesson has stuck.
While it is true that leading the pack can create a perception of inevitable victory, it also means that everyone else in the race paints a target on your back as they run against you, waiting for the stumbles that are certain to come.
One thing you can say about Hillary: She has made the campaign bipartisan. Both Democratic and Republican candidates are teeing off on her. At Tuesday’s debate, the GOP candidates seemed to forget about any other of the other possible opponents from the other side.
Of course, it is fair to say that they prefer her, based on the belief she would rally their base against her, even if it didn’t particularly care for any of them.
What is so interesting is how the media game plays.
Right now we’ve elevated her to prohibitive leader. Now it’s time to start knocking her down. Let’s face it, her opponents and us journalists have her where we want her. We’re declaring the race all but over to make damned sure that it’s not.