In the Arena


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Clinton’s poll-driven attack on Obama today seems a bit too sweaty and desperate for her current situation, which is still a dead heat in the totally unpredictable January 3 caucus, although an Obamaward ripple can be discerned.

And this attack seems downright idiotic.

All right, it’s true Clinton is in a tussle–I’ve talked to lots of voters in the past few days out here in Iowa who seem to be moving toward Obama–but these sorts of harsh, obvious attacks won’t do her any good…Which is something John Edwards has learned over the past month: His attacks on Clinton did him absolutely no good and may have hurt. He told us today, in Fort Dodge (I think it was), that he would spend the last month of the Iowa campaign making the positive case for his candidacy. Proving once again that Iowa–as opposed to some other states I can name–is a very nice place. Mean don’t cut it around here.

At the very least, the current caucus-fog should put the end to another journalistic cliche I hate: Inevitability. I’ve been watching politicians for a long time now and I’ve never seen an inevitable candidate (who wasn’t an uncontested incumbent). It’s been wildly silly–and I might add, a persistent Republican talking point–to say that “Hillary is a lock” for the nomination, just as it was wildly silly four years ago to say that Howard Dean had it in the bag. Next thing you know, people will be saying that she’s toast–especially if she loses Iowa–which will be equally dopey.

My uncle, a sometime bookie, always maintained that it was foolish to bet on horse races. Sometimes I can’t help myself: I made the modest prediction in 2000 that Lamar Alexander might do well (and my then-editor, David Remnick of the New Yorker, never let me forget it even though I never predicted a nomination or anything like that, just that he might do well)…And even now, in fact, I’m tempted to say…that,uh…oh, ok: Rudy Giuliani’s best days as a presidential candidate are behind him. But these are occasional eruptions and shouldn’t be trusted. I have no firm predictions to make.