Pressured by former Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards's bold foray into her own back yard, when he challenged her silence over the war during a speech in New York City, the shrine of liberalism, and by Barack Obama's formation of an exploratory committee, Hillary Clinton has rushed to signal her intention to run for president.
She has told friends that she hadn't seen why she couldn't just wait until the fall of the year before the election, as her husband Bill had done, to announce. But she was so panicked by the Edwards and Obama initiatives that she announced her candidacy on a Saturday. That's the worst news day of the year and the Clintons usually reserve it for announcements concerning their scandals.
And the latest Rasmussen Poll shows her plummeting to 22 per cent with Obama at 21 per cent and Edwards up to 15 per cent. Her campaign staff has been flatfooted and her reaction to the Edwards offensive over the war has been slow. When she should have been in the US protesting George W. Bush's speech, she was in Iraq posing for photo ops.
Edwards is winning the race to the Left, the key place to be in the Democratic primary.
Clinton's assertion that she would vote for the troop cap only begs the question of what she would do if Bush, as Commander-in-Chief, sends in the troops anyway.
Would she then vote to cut off funds to make him respect the Congressional intrusion into the powers of the president? She says not and probably would not do so.
So Clinton will be reduced to what are essentially symbolic actions against the war while Edwards, who is comfortably out of the Senate, can go as far to the Left as he needs to go in order to win the primaries.
(The latest Fox News poll showed Democrats back a total cutoff of war funding by 59-33).
Will the role of Ned Lamont, the former Democratic senate candidate against Joe Lieberman last November, in the upcoming primary be played by Edwards while the role of Lieberman is shared by Clinton and, depending on how he votes, Obama? We all know how that primary turned out.
Bear in mind, however, that Clinton was similarly awkward in the opening months of her New York State race for the Senate in 2000, committing blunder after blunder until she got her act down pat.
But the fact is that Clinton has not run in a real election in her life. She was just about unopposed for the Senate last year and drew wet-behind-the-ears former congressman Rick Lazio as her 2000 opponent rather than the heavyweight Rudy Giuliani. And Clinton has never run in a Democratic primary in her life (unless you count her nominal race in 2006).
Her inexperience and the age of her staff is showing. She and they appear at a loss to adjust to the fast-moving pace of modern politics. She particularly appears not to have grasped that 2007 is the new 2008. By the time the Iowa caucuses are held, the race for the nomination will be over, just as it was in 2004.
Remember how Howard Dean surged out to a lead in September of 2007, months before the first votes were cast and then lost his lead to John Kerry in December, 2007 amid a barrage of negative publicity?
By the time Iowa voted, it merely mirrored the results of the American-media primary which had already been held the autumn before.
Will she win? Probably yes. Still. She has the capacity to draw out a large number of voters who have not previously cast ballots. In 1996, 49 per cent of Americans of voting age participated in the presidential contest. In 2000, 51 per cent did. In 2004, the percentage was up to 55 per cent.
Increasing turnout is the central fact of presidential elections these days. Karl Rove's ability to maximise the turnout of white married couples and single white men was the key to Bush's victory. The President got 12million more votes in 2004 than he got in 2000. But Kerry was also able to attract almost 6 million new single women to the polls who did not participate in 2000. They formed a large part of the 9 million extra votes Kerry got that Al Gore did not.
Clinton, to a great extent, and Obama, to a lesser degree, can impel large numbers of new voters to flock to the polls in the primaries and the election itself, which gives them a huge advantage.
But, to win, Clinton better get used to the pace of politics in 2007.