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« Morning Thoughts: GOTC | Blog Home Page | Biden Keeps His Chin Up »

Hillary The Hawkeye

One of the best predictors of the way a race is going is to find out who wants debates. By and large, the candidate calling for the most debates is probably the candidate who is losing; they need the extra exposure in order to get their message out, and it gives their opponent the opportunity to stumble.

Iowa and New Hampshire are increasingly seen as akin to debates: They are just one chance to earn delegates, and if a candidate isn't doing well in one, he or she should just skip it. Rudy Giuliani is largely skipping Iowa, while Fred Thompson has pulled out of New Hampshire, for example.

As Iowa inches toward what looks like an incredibly close finish, Roger Simon smartly wonders, why is Hillary Clinton subjecting herself to the prospect of losing the first contest she enters, and with it, her inevitability? Why not just treat the event as the first debate challenge from an opponent, ignore it, and focus instead on winning New Hampshire, where she might have been stronger?

Well, the Clinton campaign actually considered that, in a now-infamous memo penned half a year ago by deputy campaign manager Mike Henry. Henry argued for skipping Iowa and focusing more on a national campaign. And while Edwards fans are excited and Obama crowds are massive, Clinton's supporters seem more content with their candidate than thrilled.

The momentum does not look good for Clinton, either: As two front-runners pack venues, Clinton drew abut 150 to an event in Indianola, RCP's Tom Bevan reports. Edwards and Obama are hitting as many events as possible with short summing up speeches of ten minutes or less. Clinton, Tom says, finally asked supporters to head to the caucuses at a lethargic 51 minutes in, then wraps up at 55 minutes.

If Clinton wins the nomination, the point is moot. If she doesn't, second-guessing her campaign's decision to compete for Iowa delegates -- risking so much for something not inherently necessary to a win -- will begin. To move on would have made Iowa meaningless; a win for Edwards or Obama would not be a win if they weren't competing with Clinton. Her continued presence is allowing her opponents the opportunity to bring her down.