SEN. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost the air of inevitability that once surrounded her campaign for the Democratic nomination. It remains to be seen whether she's willing to lose her soul in her quest for the presidency.
Only a month ago, her main rival, Sen. Barack Obama, was dismissed as a "lightweight" by the political establishment. Now he has a slight lead over Senator Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire and is believed to have a good chance of winning South Carolina.
Magic Johnson's recent endorsement aside, the advantage Senator Clinton once enjoyed over Senator Obama among African-Americans has disappeared. He's even cut into her support from women.
The Clinton campaign has reacted to this change in fortune by going into what can only be described as panic mode. Using political surrogates, campaign apparatchiks, and an increasingly indignant former president, the senator's nomination drive has engaged in a level of innuendo remarkable in its sleaziness.
Days after the firing of a campaign worker who passed along e-mail suggesting Senator Obama was a Manchurian candidate, Billy Shaheen, the co-chair of the Clinton New Hampshire campaign, said Senator Obama would be vulnerable to Republican attack because of his admitted drug use as a teenager. Mr. Shaheen resigned and Senator Clinton apologized.
Shortly after that, former President Bill Clinton questioned Senator Obama's credentials to be president after praising his "tremendous political skills. " In that vein, former Sen. Bob Kerry of Nebraska cited Senator Obama's "Islamic" name and background in Indonesia as a valuable asset to the United States.
It was a disingenuous and back-handed compliment, for which Senator Kerry has apologized. But it wasn't as tacky as the comment by former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, who told a predominantly black audience that Bill Clinton was "blacker" than Senator Obama and that he undoubtedly had "had" more black women.
Has any presidential campaign ever been more stuck in the fourth grade than this one?
Senator Obama has responded to the Clinton smears with a poise that belies his so-called inexperience. The race for the Democratic nomination promises to be a long and ugly one if the former front-runner feels she can win with tactics that make her look more petulant than presidential.