Hillary Clinton's prospects of capturing the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and going on to take the White House are "a lot less certain" than they used to be, a top political journalist says.
Noting that while Clinton would almost certainly be her party's nominee should she win the Iowa caucuses January 3, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Capitol Hill's influential "Roll Call," wrote that it is now easy to see her losing that crucial first primary contest.
Moreover, he predicts "if she finishes third or significantly trails as No. 2 - especially behind Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) - it could set off a cascade that causes her to lose New Hampshire and then the nomination."
According to the longtime Washington correspondent, polls "suggest that Clinton has built up lots of firewalls in states after New Hampshire, where she currently leads by 13 points. She leads in Michigan (Jan. 15) and Nevada (Jan. 19) by more than 20 points, according to RealClearPolitics.com averages, South Carolina (Jan. 26) by 12 points and Florida (Jan. 29) by 26 points."
He adds, "In Feb. 5 [so-called Tsunami Tuesday] states like California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, her leads are close to 30 points."
But all of that would be meaningless, Kondracke explains, if defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire "burn through the those firewalls and re-create the dynamic of 1984, where the establishment candidate, former Vice President Walter Mondale, almost lost the nomination to fresh-face challenger Sen. Gary Hart (Colo.)."
Polls in Iowa he writes, now indicate that Clinton is in deep trouble. "The topline ABC/Washington Post poll results showing Obama with 30 percent, Clinton with 26 percent and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) with 22 mean less than other factors."
For example, the ABC/Washington Post poll indicates that among Iowa Democrats, Clinton's points of advantage - "strength and experience" - are far less important than Obama's "new direction and new ideas" by a margin of more than 20 percent.
Obama, he observes, "is more likely to defeat Clinton for the nomination - especially if an Iowa victory makes him the top story of the night and excites Independents in New Hampshire to vote in the Democratic primary."
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