Well before she announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President, Hillary Clinton was the best-known candidate from either party. At the outset this was both a positive and a negative, as many people seemed to have already made up their mind about her one way or the other.
But there has been a subtle shift during the course of this year. In a combined field of around twenty candidates, Senator Clinton has gone beyond being the best known; she has stood out. This could cynically be attributed to the fact that the Democrats are getting all the publicity (and money), or that she is, after all, the wife of a former President.
Either of these views completely misses the truth of the situation. Through countless debates held by both parties, a clear fact has emerged. While Barack Obama looks confident, and John Edwards looks compassionate, and Mitt Romney occasionally looks befuddled, Hillary Clinton looks Presidential. Maybe not Presidential in the same sense as Lincoln or FDR, but much more than the other candidates, and certainly more than what we’ve had for the past seven years.
The reason for this is not easy to pin down. It could be the six years she has spent in the Senate, or the eight years she spent in the White House during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Yet it seems more like she has finally stepped out of his very large shadow and is finally comfortable simply being Hillary.
She is also, to put it simply, the most vetted candidate in the history of presidential politics. There is virtually nothing, after nearly two decades, that we don’t know about her, personally, professionally, and on the issues. There will be no surprise skeletons produced from her closet on the eve of the South Carolina primary.
This does not bode well for her opponents in the Democratic primaries or her eventual Republican opponent in November 2008. Hillary has always been smarter than Bill Clinton, but she lacked his charisma, his connection to the people. With each passing day, she develops more of her own personal style, and with it a charisma of sorts that stands out all the more amid the bland cardboard cutouts that would presume to be the next leader of the free world.
As she continues to dominate the debates with her command of the issues, continues to raise more funds than everyone else, and continues to win over both male independents and female Republicans, it is abundantly clear that the only person that can stop Hillary’s march to the presidency is Hillary. And she’s not going to let that happen.