NOVEMBER 21, 2007
Mike raises a great question: Would Hillary have been better off skipping Iowa and making her stand in New Hampshire? Obama's recent momentum in the state is certainly making the idea look better and better. But I still think she made the right decision. For two reasons: 1.) It would have been difficult for Hillary to claim the inevitability mantle--which has clearly helped her in national polls and in other states, as well as on the fundraising front--if she conceded Iowa. 2.) Given that one way or another she was eventually going to have to take on either Edwards or Obama, better to do it on her terms than theirs. If Hillary had sat out Iowa, the winner would have come into New Hampshire with a lot of momentum (having beaten one very formidable candidate). And the thing about momentum is that it's incredibly unpredictable, particularly when you only have five days to beat it back (as seems likely to be the case in New Hampshire). Much better to start on a level playing field than to immediately dig yourself a hole.
The flip side is that all Hillary really has to do to vindicate the Iowa decision is finish better than third. Obviously, if she finishes first, the nomination starts to look very good for her. And, if she finishes second, she's probably not much worse off than she would have been skipping the state and taking her chances with that Obama or Edwards momentum. It's only if she finishes third that she's in real trouble. But, then, if the Clintonites can't do better than third in Iowa, maybe they deserve to be in trouble...