By DICK MORRIS & EILEEN MCGANN
January 21, 2007 -- Pressured by former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' bold foray into her own backyard -- when he challenged her silence over the war during a speech at Riverside Church, the shrine of liberalism -- and by Sen. Barack Obama's formation of an exploratory committee, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has rushed to signal her intention to run for president.
She has told friends that she hadn't seen why she should wait until the fall of the year before the election, as her husband 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 week, and the Clintons usually reserve it for announcements concerning their scandals.
And the latest Rasmussen Poll shows her plummeting down to 22 percent, with Obama at 21 percent and Edwards, a former and vice presidential nominee, up to 15 percent. 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 United States protesting President 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 primaries.
Hillary's assertion that she would vote for a 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? Hillary says she would not.
So Hillary will be reduced to what are essentially symbolic actions against the war. Meanwhile, Edwards, who is comfortably out of the Senate, can go as far to the left as he needs to go to win the primaries. The latest Fox News Poll shows Democrats support a total cutoff of war funding by 59 percent to 33 percent.
Will the role of Ned Lamont in the upcoming primaries be played by Edwards while the role of Sen. Joeseph Lieberman is shared by Hillary and -- depending on how he votes -- Obama? We all know how the Connecticut primary turned out last August!
Bear in mind, however, that Hillary 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 Hillary has not run in a real election in her life. She was almost unopposed for the Senate last year, and she drew wet-behind-the-ears former Congressman Rick Lazio as her 2000 opponent, rather than heavyweight Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor. And Hillary 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.
Dick is always saying, as he approaches 60 years of age, that 60 is the new 50. By the same token, 2007 is the new 2008. And Hillary seems not to have grasped this fact. 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 2003, months before the first votes were cast, and then lost his lead to Sen. John Kerry in December 2003 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 -- Hillary has the capacity to draw out a large number of voters who have not previously cast ballots. In 1996, 49 percent of Americans of voting age participated in the presidential contest. In 2000, 51 percent did. In 2004, the percentage was up to 55 percent.
Increasing turnout is the central fact of presidential elections these days. Karl Rove's ability to maximize the turnout of white married couples and single white men was the key to Bush's 2004 victory. The president got 12 million 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 former Vice President Al Gore did not.
Hillary, 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, Hillary better get used to the pace of politics in 2007!
If you want to receive free copies of all of Dick Morris' and Eileen McGann's commentaries, sign up at www.dickmorris.com.