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Hillary's "I Want to Take Those Profits" Problem

I have thought for over two years now that Hillary was a lock to win the Democratic nomination, and I still believe she is the clear favorite. But the withdrawal of Bayh and Warner from the race, which on the surface looked like a plus as it cleared up her right flank, is now starting to cause her problems as it has untethered the Democratic field from the center.

Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are all scrambling to pacify the anti-Iraq base of the Democratic party which is now the central, most powerful force in today's Democratic party. Had Warner and Bayh remained in the race Senator Clinton probably would have felt less a need to jack up the invective in her ideological attacks, thus causing her to say incredibly stupid things like (video):

The Democrats know what needs to be done. Again, we're working trying to try push this agenda forward. The other day the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative, smart energy; alternatives and technology that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence.

Hillary's supporters will suggest that this was an innocent slip of the tongue and she didn't mean to suggest the government should be expropriating legally earned corporate profits, while her enemies will suggest that she was simply letting slip her true inner socialist. For now, I'm less interested in the back and forths of that argument.

My point here is Hillary's inability to engage and energize left-wing partisan audiences without saying stupid things that will get her into trouble in a general election campaign. (She did something similar to this in an MLK event with Al Sharpton last year.) Cal Thomas made a related point the other day, and essentially it boils down to this: Hillary Clinton does not come close to having the same level of innate political ability as her husband.

Running for president is not like running for the Senate, and Hillary is not going to get a "pass" on the way to the Democratic nomination like her Senate primary coronation in 2000. The listening tour shtick is not going to cut it against Obama and Edwards (and possibly even Gore) especially with a newly revitalized Democratic left that is deeply suspicious of Clintonian triangulation.

Hillary is still the front runner, and Bill Clinton's influence should not be underestimated, but she is going to need to step up her political acumen to match the impressiveness of the juggernaut-like campaign organization that's been built for her.

Clinton already has a good deal of baggage to manage in her quest for the White House. Another twelve month's worth of "I want to take those profits" type gaffes will not only imperil her general election chances, but will hurt her in the eyes of Democratic primary voters who may feel she is just too much of a general election liability.