And so, the early schedule (still subject to maneuvers) will go something like this:
January 14: Iowa Caucuses
January 19: Nevada Caucuses
January 22: New Hampshire Primary
January 29: South Carolina Primary
February 5: Tsunami Tuesday
On Tsunami Tuesday, there will be primaries in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah, plus caucuses in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico and North Dakota.
At that point, 1242 of 4363 Democratic National Convention delegates will have been chosen, but a nominee will need 2182 delegates to win the nomination. And the front-runner Clinton, assuming she's still standing, will likely face just one viable rival in the expensive media war to come in the states that follow. It was in this round when Dukakis bested Jackson in '88; it's also when Walter Mondale dispatched Gary Hart in '84, Bill Clinton raced past Jerry Brown in '92, Al Gore beat Bill Bradley in '00, and Kerry stopped Edwards in '04. The last front-runner standing with the most money has always won in the recent Democratic nomination battles. (Bradley began with a slight money advantage over Gore, but by March, Gore had raced significantly ahead in terms of available campaign funds.)
Following that pattern, Clinton, who, in the first half of 2007, raised $53 million and emptied her US Senate campaign chest to add another cool $10 million, would easily best Edwards (who raised $23 million during those same six months) in the second wave of primaries and caucuses.
Today, Clinton has $45 million in the bank versus Edwards's $13 million. That gap will likely increase significantly by January. All the major candidates have sufficient funds for parity on the airwaves and on the ground in early Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But by the time Tsunami Tuesday comes along, on February 5, the wealthier campaign — presuming its candidate did not stumble badly in one or more of the first four states — will likely begin to pile up delegates and trampoline through the February and March contests toward the nomination. Game over.
We could have ignored the entire campaign, comfortable in our distanced discomfort, casting a pox on all their houses . . . except for the emergence of that pain-in-the-ass Senator Barack Obama, who has crafted the irresistible narrative that now emerges.
THE "CHANGE" ELECTION
Barack Obama sought to turn the 2008 vote into a referendum on "change." Now Clinton has said "me, too," so they'll be boxing the rest of the prizefight in a ring Obama built. On Labor Day weekend, the candidates came to New Hampshire to unveil their reloaded messages and begin the final laps toward the actual voting in January.
Their speeches were aired on C-Span and appear on the candidate Web sites, but let's focus on a few key passages that give the game away. Clinton spoke at rallies in Concord and Portsmouth on Sunday, September 3, flanked by placards that brandished her new campaign slogan: "Change + Experience."
Clinton used the C-word more than two dozen times during her 31-minute stump speech.