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Shipp: Hillary must run gauntlet to victory

POSTED: January 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Experts say Hillary Clinton seems a shoo-in to win the Democratic presidential nomination. A shoo-in? We'll see.

Take a look at the hurdles she must jump. Consider what her Democratic opponents will throw at her: Bill's zipper, tangled party rules, a new surge by Barack Obama, and a mean attack from John Edwards plus a constant pounding from nearly every candidate during an exhausting round of debates. Her ordeals are just beginning. Sure, she could win the race to the White House, but consider what may happen along the way:

Bill's zipper slips back into play. Rumors persist that the former president remains a bounder. Insiders say, however, that he's on his best behavior during the campaign, or at least he's being very careful. If the tabloids can't catch Bill fooling around, they will simply make up a story. It would sell millions of papers and could ruin Hillary's campaign.

A looney primary schedule and convoluted party rules might also wreck the Hillary train. Democrats, being Democrats, fixed the rules years ago so that almost nobody can win. Following disastrous conventions in 1968 and 1972, the Democratic Party abolished winner-take-all primaries.

Even if a candidate wins a state, anyone else drawing at least 15 percent of the votes in a congressional district collects delegates. Remember 2004? John Kerry won the Democratic primary in Georgia, but John Edwards received almost as many votes and kept his bid alive.

Try this likely scenario for the current caucus/primary season. Edwards wins Iowa, Clinton takes New Hampshire and Obama sweeps South Carolina. Though only a handful of delegates are at stake in the first contests, all three candidates would still be in the hunt for scores of delegates on Feb. 5, "Super-duper Tuesday."

On that fateful day, Clinton, Obama and Edwards could split up the delegates, setting the stage for a no-holds-barred brawl during the isolated primaries of March and April. Conceivably, the final shoot-out could occur at the convention.

By that time, Hillary could be worn out and defeated; or (drums and trumpets, please) she could emerge as an unbeatable Superwoman, a better-looking Elizabeth I, a Joan of Arc American-style.

Too bad the wise men in Georgia didn't hang onto their first decision to hold their primary in early March. The Peach State might have wound up in a pivotal position. As it is, we're lost in the crowd of Super-duper Tuesday and forgotten a week later.

From my perch here, Edwards seems to be fading, but the reporters covering the campaigns say I am wrong. Edwards is picking up ground. More importantly, he is battering Clinton on her lobbyist connections and her wishy-washy stands on the Iraq war. If Edwards catches fire again, Hillary may be badly burned.

Obama comes roaring back. To some of us smart-aleck white boys, to paraphrase Andy Young, Obama has been a major disappointment. He has not come close to living up to the expectations created by his sterling 2004 convention speech.

In the black community, however, he remains a rock star. He will certainly win South Carolina, where half the Democratic voters are African-American, and he stands a good chance of scoring big in Georgia. Every vote for Obama is a lost vote for Hillary.

Then mix in the bubbas' distaste for women authority figures and women's jealousy of their own gender's high achievers.

Alas, poor Hillary could be a goner. Edwards wins the nomination, thus leaving the Republican candidate -- probably Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani -- scrambling to solidify his must-win Southern base. They'll be looking for a Southerner on the ticket as vice president. That may mean it's Sonny time. (Oh, no, let's not go through that again.)

The above prognostications on Hillary are based on stacks of printouts and analyses, some by the best minds in politics. Yet, my instincts say I should stick with my first position: Fred Thompson is the GOP's best fit as a presidential nominee. He can win the GOP nomination and the White House, if he can get a good script and a decent director.

One other thing: He ought to stop dozing off while Chris Matthews shouts export-import questions at him on TV.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160.



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