Not so long ago, conventional wisdom held that Hillary Clinton's campaign war chest gave her an almost insurmountable lead over any other would-be contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Not anymore, at least if Anne Kornblut's latest research effort for the New York Times is any more trustworthy than her last.
Kornblut -- whose name has appeared atop recent stories saying Clinton had attacked Senate Democrats for "wasting our time" and "wasting lives" (she hadn't) and that Joe Lieberman had never said "stay the course" about Iraq (he had) -- joins Timesman Jeff Zeleny in declaring that Hillary spent so much on her cakewalk reelection campaign this year that her war chest is now not much larger than those of mere mortals like John Kerry and Evan Bayh.
Where did all the money go? Although the outcome of her race was never in doubt, Kornblut and Zeleny say Clinton spent "upward of $30 million" on her reelection run, more than any other candidate for the Senate this year. Advertising and fundraising ate up $17 million, Kornblut and Zeleny say, and "tens of thousands of dollars a month" went to "an assortment of consultants and aides."
We'll presume that Clinton didn't need all of those consultants and aides to help her figure out how to beat John Spencer, whom she sent packing back to Yonkers with a 67-31 percent win. And all those advertising and fundraising expenditures could certainly bring dividends along the road to 2008. But if Clinton and her supporters thought some of her appeal would come from her inevitability, maybe folks on her campaign staff are thinking twice now about, say, the $160,000 they spent on travel by private jet, or the $27,000 for valet parking, or the $13,000 for flowers.
Clinton's advisors had predicted she'd have $20 million to $30 million on hand as she began to make plans for a White House run. Now she's down to somewhere around $14 million. That still may be more than any other Democratic candidate had, but it's not categorically more anymore. Which leads us to ask: If Hillary isn't inevitable, is she all that attractive to her fellow Democrats?