Is she Dean, Mondale or Bush?

Of Hillary Clinton and inevitability.

Published October 16, 2007 2:01PM (EDT)

We noted the other day that there's a problem with the "Yeah, but Howard Dean seemed inevitable, too" argument when it's offered in the context of Hillary Clinton: Dean never had the national poll numbers that Clinton enjoys now, and he certainly didn't have them this early in the race.

NBC's First Read picks up that thread today and adds to it: For better or for worse -- put us in the worse camp -- Dean never had "a stranglehold on the establishment the way Clinton does," either.

Thus, NBC's Chuck Todd and his colleagues say, a better comparison might be with George W. Bush in 1999 or Walter Mondale in 1983 -- each of whom stumbled in an early state before rolling to his party's presidential nomination: "Bush and Mondale survived, and maybe that's the firewall-like lead Clinton is building, an ability to survive a major stumble."

Well, maybe. But here are two reasons for pause, neither of which stems from the skepticism we feel for projections from a guy who predicted that George W. Bush's approval rating would be back over 50 percent by now.

First, although Clinton grabbed headlines earlier this month by announcing that she'd won the third-quarter fundraising race, the cash-on-hand calculations that became possible with the release of financial data late Monday reveal a more nuanced picture. As the Politico reports, Clinton and Barack Obama are now in a "virtual money tie": After debts, each has about $32 million available to spend in the primary season.

Second, although we assumed that the SEIU's decision not to endorse a candidate would be bad news for John Edwards, who'd lobbied hard for the endorsement, it's turning out not to be quite the problem we'd imagined. Edwards has picked up endorsements from 10 state chapters of the union. Among them is the chapter in Iowa, which means that, under SEIU rules, other chapters will be prohibited from helping other candidates in the state.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton John Edwards War Room