Will Hillary's top challenger be Fred Thompson?
Thompson, who has yet to officially announce he is running, is Hillary's opposite: he's conservative, well-liked by all sides, and, most significantly, not losing ground to Barack Obama.
Thompson's stock value is rising. Hillary is not losing value as much as Obama is taking over the leftover. This adds up. Obama has only flirted with the Democratic lead, but it should be enough to scare the previously complacent Hillary Clinton campaign.
What this means is that Hillary and Obama have a problem. To run in November, someone needs to win in the primaries. Obvious? Yes, yes. What will happen to get there?
The fight now is Obama-Hilary. John Edwards has fallen into the cult following by hefty, horn-rimmed glassed women who love to worship a dreamy-eyed liberal. So, Edwards is now just a speech giver and radio talk show guest. Obama has momentum, but it is far too early to call it. Hillary, on the other hand, has fire power, and connections Obama is too new to have. Expect each to play their strengths and flop the top position.
What worries me is the dirty work. To win, someone must lose. To win, scandals will be brought up so that a loser may be declared. Hillary has more than her fair share of scandals, but, slowly leaking out is that Obama has made a few unholy alliances. While the Tony Rezko story is relatively unimportant, it may inspire a buck reporter to dig a little deeper. The Hillary Clinton campaign might even help provide information.
Let's say Obama wins the primary. He'll stumble into the general election already bruised and road weary. The press might be tired of beating on the conservatives, and know their readers have heard it all. If Fred Thompson is the Republican candidate, the media simply might not have anything new to say about him. He might be a better version of Bush, and brighter at the podium. So, they pick on Obama. He's clean, fresh -- or is he? The Rezko story might flower into something dirty, like mob work, corruption, bribes, or may fizzle into something that was a mistake and nothing more.
If, though, he's got a cachet of trouble, and has spent dollars fighting these issues with Hillary, he might not have enough bullets to fight Thompson.
Hillary's war chest, I'll guess, is deeper, and can survive a battle financially. She might arrive as victor (or do we say victoria?) in November. Her marketing people are working double time to make her appear as a mix of Martha Stewart, and my gossipy next door neighbor, while trying to balance that with her image as a blood thirsty Republican killer. Obama has no choice but to run a simpler campaign, but, has fewer complexities in his life, his leadership and his political experience.
For the Democrats, a clear victor needs to be established early enough so that they can regroup to beat the Republican candidate. If they don't, they should know that the Republicans will be ready, organized, motivated, and ready to win as the underdog. If the Republicans become the underdog, and aren't parlayed by the Democrats as inevitable losers, they will lose.