Joe Klein has some questions (in a big, rambling Time piece):
"Who knows?" said Karl Rhomberg, a former Scott County Democratic chairman, after watching Clinton perform in Davenport, Iowa. He pointed out that four years ago, in November, Howard Dean was inevitable, and John Kerry was over. "But 40% were undecided going into the last week of the caucus. It'll be the same this time. Hillary is 20% smarter than the guys, but a woman has to be just to pull equal. And I can't stand thinking about what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are going to do to her. People are just sick of that. They love Obama. He's very inspiring. But in the end, Iowans vote on electability. I hate to say it, but my guess is they'll vote for the white guy — Edwards — this time, just like they voted for the war hero last time."Oh, that drooling over Clinton is a little repulsive. Excellence. 20% smarter. Ugh! But what's worse is pushing the offensive notion that if we don't like her, we're sexist. It's hatred. Demons! Haunting our nation!
It was a chilling thought. I'm sure Edwards wouldn't want to win that way, and I'm not so sure he will. But Rhomberg's scenario wasn't at all implausible. It certainly raises the central issue of this Democratic campaign: whether Hillary Clinton's excellence as a candidate will be enough to overcome her family's garish political history, the undiluted hatred that will be directed against her and the demons that still haunt our nation.
Edwards wouldn't want to win that way. Please. First of all, Edwards wants to win any way he can. He'll even claim to be more womanly than Hillary if he thinks we want a woman.
But we've all been thinking about 2004 and Howard Dean in connection with Hillary's current seeming inevitability, haven't we? Can't you picture the scenario playing out the same way in '08? Scream and all.
ADDED: "Why is Hillary playing the gender card?" Peter Beinart and Jonah Goldberg diavlog.