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Postpone The Clinton Anointment

The mainstream media, or at least more than a handful of major outlets, are anointing Sen. Hillary Clinton front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, to the point where even Sen. Barack Obama's campaign people, gleeful underdogs a couple of months ago, have turned a distinct shade of blue. But I have three thoughts for political statistics junkies, which I'll share with you below.

First, a couple of quotes to prove my point:

"Maybe it's her improving poll numbers or maybe it's just that after six or seven of these things, she's finally getting the hang of it, but we thought Hillary Clinton finally came off like the front-runner that she is in Wednesday night's Democratic debate in New Hampshire."

" ... a confluence of factors have effectively installed Clinton as the political establishment's candidate. And just yesterday she got great news here in New Hampshire when a new independent poll showed her with a whopping 23-point lead over Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.)."

Whoa, guys, pull up those reins. Here's a sobering thought.

Four years ago, Howard Dean was leading the Democratic pack by an even larger margin. And if that hasn't sobered you to the point of sarcasm, there's a new poll that was released this weekend that should. It shows, "Among all Iowa Democrats surveyed, Clinton enjoys a 6-point lead over her nearest rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. But among likely Democratic caucus-goers, she is locked in a three-way race with Obama and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, with Obama enjoying a slight edge."

We all know how important the early state results are, and even though Clinton leads in other early states, a defeat in Iowa would set her back considerably. Four months ahead of the caucuses, and given the amount of time, effort, and money she's put into Iowa, she should not be having this tough a time.

Then there's the media backlash against an early front-runner, which has just begun and is ratcheting up in speed and nastiness. Witness this column by a Boston Globe writer:

"Hens cackle. So do witches. And so does the front-runner in the Democratic presidential contest. Clinton adviser Dick Morris recently described Hillary Clinton's laugh as 'loud, inappropriate, and mirthless. . . . A scary sound that was somewhere between a cackle and a screech.' "

Ouch! A few months of that and front-runner status would be wrenched from Mother Teresa!

I'm not saying Clinton isn't running ahead of her Democratic rivals. I'm not saying she won't eventually get the nomination. I am saying it's too early to anoint anyone.

By Bonnie Erbe