Inevitable Hillary, Absent Obama

My wife made a bet with me back in September, when Hillary Clinton appeared to be a sure thing as the Democratic Presidential Nominee. She bet me that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, and I bet her that it would be someone, anyone else.

This wasn't just wishful thinking on my part. Remember how things looked back in the winter of 2003? Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt were leading in Iowa, with Kerry and Edwards a distant third and fourth, and we know how that turned out. A lot happens in the few weeks leading up to Iowa and New Hampshire.

If you take a look at the latest national polls, or indicators like the Iowa Electronic Markets, Clinton did appear to be pulling away from the pack starting in March of this year. But the gap has been closing since late October/early November.

Iowa Futures Markets

If any Democratic candidate has a chance at beating inevitable Hillary, its Barack Obama, or so goes the conventional wisdom.

Fundraising numbers in September certainly made Clinton seem like a sure thing. From July to October, Clinton raised as much as Obama and Edwards combined. But does money equate to electability? In modern political campaigns, more often than not, money determines the outcome. This is a sad statement about our democracy, but it's not a truism.

Of course the media is covering the election as a horse race, as it always does. And voters aren't paying nearly as close attention as they should be. For example, most voters probably missed the petition launched by the American Freedom Campaign, asking that the presidential candidates oppose torture. Last time I checked, Clinton and Obama were the only Democratic candidates who hadn't signed it.

Two Senate votes were similarly revealing. You may recall that the Senate, by a 76-22 vote, passed a non-binding resolution designating Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization that has killed U.S. forces in Iraq. Clinton voted for the amendment, while Dodd and Joe Biden voted against it. Obama missed the vote.

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel took Clinton to task for her vote during a debate back in September.
We're talking about ending the war; my God, we're just starting a war right today. There was a vote in the Senate today -- Joe Lieberman, who authored the Iraq resolution, has offered another resolution, and it essentially a fig leaf to let George Bush go to war with Iran. And I want to congratulate Biden for voting against it, Dodd for voting against, and I'm ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it. You're not going to get another shot at this, because what's happened if this war ensues -- we invade and they're looking for an excuse to do it.

And Obama was not even there to vote.
The Senate also passed an amendment condemning "personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus," i.e.'s full-page "General Betrayus" ad which ran in The New York Times. Clinton voted against it (as did Christopher Dodd). Obama didn't vote.

Where am I going with this? I think Hillary is a terrible candidate, and Obama lacks the courage of his convictions, whatever they may be. I also believe Clinton (and Obama) would lose to Romney or Giuliani in a general election, which is an avoidable disaster. Recent Zogby polling data "shows Democrat Hillary Clinton of New York would lose to every one of the top five Republican presidential contenders."

I guess what I'm saying is, I still feel pretty good about the bet I made with my wife three months ago. I hope I'm right about this.