The New Yorker magazine has an intriguing cover story this week asking, “Is Hillary Clinton still inevitable?”
The answer inside is maybe.
She certainly seems to have the field spread-eagled, but she was similarly in front six years ago at this point, leading a relatively unknown called Barack Obama by 30 points.
We all know how that turned out.
But as any good racehorse trainer will tell you, being in front this far so early in the race is the worst thing possible, as front runners very often falter.
When expectations are so sky high any slippage is pounced upon by bored media hounds who do not want a coronation, and the 24/7 media machine wants nothing more than a no holds barred primary race.
I have no doubt at all they went completely overboard for Obama in 2008 as he was by far the most compelling story.
After all, what new stuff can you write about an uber-politician like Clinton, in the media spotlight since 1990 when her husband first announced he would likely run?
Indeed, it is highly likely Clinton does not want a coronation either. She needs to be on her game if she wins the Democratic nomination, as the GOP machine will certainly be in high gear to combat her.
Remember how sluggish President Obama and before him President Bush were in their first television debates after they had been too long in the White House with everyone agreeing with them?
That same fate could impact Clinton if she gets an unchallenged run to the presidency nomination.
The New Yorker makes clear that Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is the obvious second place candidate at present.
Interestingly Ryan Lizza, the writer of the piece, does not discuss Joe Biden’s possible candidacy, assuming that the only way he will run is if Clinton pulls out.
That leaves O’Malley in pole position to run second. And that is no bad place to be.
Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Howard Dean among others launched improbable campaigns after finishing well in early states. Bill Clinton parlayed his comeback kid second in New Hampshire to success in the White House.
Could O’Malley or another Irish American, Jim Webb, former Virginia senator, do the same?
Of the two O’Malley seems by far the more likely. He was a very popular Maryland governor, winning his re-election race by 14 points. Sure, his designated successor failed to replace him in last week’s election, but as the Clintons well know, political coat tails are very often a media creation.
Webb is a right of center Democrat who would play well in a general election. But like Jeb Bush on the other side, he may well be politically tainted as too far right for most Democratic primary voters. He wrote the definitive book on the Scots Irish called Born Fighting, but he has long had a reputation as too quirky.
The other candidate, Bernie Sanders, the socialist from Vermont who votes with Democrats, seems a hopeless outsider.
It could well come down to Clinton and O’Malley as The New Yorker seems to indicate. That could be a fascinating match up.