We're still three months away from the Iowa Caucus, and, as you can see, from the screengrab above, the media is already projecting us firmly into a Hillary v. Rudy future. Are you ready for it?
It's not new for Clinton to be thought of as the frontrunner. Type "[Candidate's name] is the presumptive favorite" into the Googles and see what you get! Go ahead. We'll wait.
See what we mean? Still, with the media already looking ahead to the post-convention state of play, and envisioning Clinton playing a large part in that future, it allows the candidate to walk a little taller. And the meme doesn't come absent of backing: she's way up in the polls, edged ahead of Obama in third quarter fundraising, and, most critically, has found that America is ready to think of husband Bill as America's Next Top First Lady. Dodgy fundraising: forgiven! Existence of cleavage: allowed. Weird, offputting laughter: errr...well, we're still working out our feelings on that.
What's the clearest sign that the media is ready to dispense with the formality of the nomination process altogether? These sorts of poll results:
But Americans said they would not regard the election of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as simply the resumption of her husband's presidency. Instead, two-thirds said she would take her presidency in a different direction, and half of all Americans said they believed that would be a good development. About half of those who said it would be a resumption described that as positive.
So: Hillary's reign would not be a continuation of Bill's presidency, but if she decided that's what she wanted to do, that's okay with a lot of people, too. If you are Barack Obama, campaigning on the issue of bringing "real change," this indicates that the press and pollsters have already begun looking past you.
That could be a mistake. Obama, after all, is still a sizable draw in Clinton's adopted backyard. And, besides, where the press is long on forecasting, they're short on memory: after all, when was the last time a seemingly down-and-out nominee surged to knock out a de facto frontrunner in Iowa? Uhm...2004: when John Kerry did it to Howard Dean. In fact, if you recall, Kerry emerged after Dean and Gephardt turned the Iowa airwaves into a toxic swamp of negative advertising. Regardless of who's forgotten that, we'd guess John Edwards remembers -- his campaign got a boost along with Kerry. So have the American people spoken? To borrow from Nellie McKay: Maybe those nice Midwestern folks are just joking!
As the above graphic would also indicate, the media-driven momentum on the GOP side is lining up for a redux of the aborted Clinton-Giuliani Senatorial tilt. Again, this is not without some merit -- it was Giuliani, after all, who, in taking up a defense of David Petraeus, angled the first meaty shot of the season across the aisle. And while his polling has lacked the historical and numerical dominance Clinton's enjoyed over her fellow nominee contenders, Giuliani has got the wind at his back where the numbers are concerned as well. Indeed, as MSNBC blurbed in their "First Read" email this morning: "the stars are aligning for Giuliani."
But are the stars really aligning? Not if you're a social conservative they aren't! But more importantly, it seems like Giuliani is benefiting more from the weak campaigns of his fellow nominees than anything he's doing himself. Don't believe me? Check in with Ad Nags reporting live from the ennui-packed campaign of Fred "The Savior of the Republican Party" Thompson! In his coverage, Nagourney gets to use words like "subdued," "sonorous," "laconic," and "monotone." He captures Thompson pitching exciting, third-wave ideas like: "Let's continue doing what works and quit doing what doesn't work in this country" and "High, high, high on our lists of concerns for anybody who would think about becoming president of the United States is the security of this nation." And of course, the money moment:
"Can I have a round of applause?" Mr. Thompson said, drawing a rustle of clapping and some laughter.
"Well, I had to drag that out of you," he said.
This, obviously, does not constitute a robust challenge to Giuliani. But if this is the best anyone on the GOP side can muster, you can hardly blame the media for wanting the Chinese water torture to end and start dreaming of the excitement of a Clinton-Giuliani matchup.*
*And, by the way, they've already run the numbers on that: "At this point, a hypothetical matchup between Clinton and Giuliani shows the senator leading the former mayor 51 percent to 43 percent. When the Post-ABC News poll last tested the two against each other, in January, the race was a tossup, with Clinton at 49 percent and Giuliani at 47 percent. In the new poll, among those following the campaign very closely, Clinton enjoys a sizable lead -- 58 percent to 40 percent."