"Walter F. Mondale now holds the most commanding lead ever recorded this early in a Presidential nomination campaign by a nonincumbent, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll." -- New York Times front page, February 28, 1984
(The same day that Gary Hart crushed Mondale in the New Hampshire primary, then went on to win another 25 state contests before Mondale bested him at the National Convention and went on to a landslide loss to Ronald Reagan.)
Is Hillary Clinton inevitable? Should she even want to be seen that way? Be careful what you wish for.
The other day I did my in-depth view of the 30th anniversary of Gary Hart's shock breakthrough in the Iowa presidential caucuses, with some discussion of whether or not a dark horse candidate could repeat that in today's politics.
Which is another way of saying: Can Hillary Clinton be beaten in the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination race? A new poll indicates that upwards of 80 percent of Democrats, and a little over 50 percent of independents, want her to run for president.
That's vastly higher than any other Democrat, including Vice President Joe Biden.
While I think she's a strong candidate now, it will take a while to know the answer to that question of whether or not she can be beaten. Among other things, there's going to be a very extended look at her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State, her most important office by far, occasioned by her own memoir to be published some time this summer.
Here, incidentally, in what I imagine is a brief preview of her memoir, is what she has to say in her new bio about her days running the State Department:
In her four years as Secretary of State, Clinton played a central role in restoring America's standing in the world and strengthening its global leadership. Her "smart power" approach to foreign policy elevated American diplomacy and development, repositioning them for the 21st century with new tools, technologies and partners, including the private sector and civil society around the world. As America's chief diplomat and the President's principal foreign policy adviser, Clinton spearheaded progress on many of our greatest national security challenges, from reasserting the United States as a Pacific power and imposing crippling sanctions on Iran and North Korea to responding to the challenges and opportunities of the Arab Awakening and negotiating a ceasefire in the Middle East. She pushed the frontiers of human rights and demonstrated that giving women the opportunity to participate fully in society is vital to the security, stability and prosperity of all nations.
Sounds good, doesn't it? I'll take a stab at tearing it apart when we get closer to the actual memoir.
And we will see how she is running in her pre-campaign. So far, she hasn't had much to say, intent instead on building a sense of, well, inevitability -- something which can generate its own backlash -- and on giving high-dollar, mostly private speeches. That is "high-dollar" as in a reported $250,000 a pop.
But next Wednesday she gives a speech at UCLA, so I may get a better handle on her chops and orientation sooner than might otherwise be expected. She won't speak at the California Democratic Party convention at the L.A. Convention Center, which begins just two days later. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, a would-be dark horse presidential contender in his own right, who got his start in the Hart for President campaign as an advance man, will speak there. As will Governor Jerry Brown, who says he has no plan to run in 2016, and just announced his campaign for an unprecedented fourth term as California's governor.
Clinton got a rockstar response this week at the University of Miami reminiscent of the reaction that her husband sometimes got. Of course, she carries with her a prospect of making history in a way that he did not. Since we've just had our first black president, isn't it time to have our first woman president? That's a line of thought that can be very powerful.
Students lined up hours outside the arena hours in advance waiting for to get into her speech, hoping for a glimpse of her arrival. The independent pro-Clinton PAC Ready for Hillary, staffed by Obama campaign veterans, signed up supporters and made sure there were "Ready for Hillary" signs and badges throughout the crowd.
Not that Hillary is saying "ready for" what just yet. She's playing it coy, as in her Twitter mini-bio, which dubs her "Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD..."
But that sort of coy -- "glass ceiling cracker, TBD (To Be Determined)" -- is actually more than a little arch.
And it's not clear exactly what she is saying about America's future.
Meanwhile, Hillary is occasioning quite a lot of talk about herself from her opponents, not about the future but about the past.
The inevitable right-wing Republican opponents are trying to drudge up, er, dredge up the sex scandal around her husband when he was president, questions about her health from her non-stop travel as Secretary of State (I'm told she is in a much healthier place now), even questions about whether she looks old, replete with, natch, unflattering photos.
They're poised to pore through thousands of pages of Bill Clinton administration documents from the Clinton Library to find more grist for their melodrama mill.
There is a certain comfort factor in the media and political communities to hash and rehash the same old same old in light of a new twist or new gloss. One certainly doesn't have to break new ground or learn much that is new.
But I'm more than a little bored by the old Clinton melodramas. And I'm sure that she is not going to be brought down by them.
It's obvious that Hillary Clinton wants to be president. She might just make a good one. Her husband, after all, for all his foibles, turned out to be a good president.
But we can't know that until we know where she wants to take the country.