A coronation stumble?

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By John Barnhart

We'll find out tomorrow whether the "Democratic" Party's establishment will regret the party's heavily front-loaded primary and caucus schedule.

I'm convinced that Hillary Clinton is the party establishment's favorite. Well organized and well funded, the next five weeks should benefit her. Everything is so compressed that the losers in tomorrow's Iowa caucuses will have little time to regroup before the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday. By the end of the month, all of Clinton's opponents should have smoke coming off them, heading into the 20-state primary on Feb. 5. Clinton would then administer the coup de grace and emerge ready to concentrate on campaigning against whomever the Republicans nominate.

Moving the Iowa caucus to Jan. 3 should be especially beneficial for her as much of Barak Obama's support is coming from college students. Colleges and universities haven't yet reopened for the new semester and it's open to question how many of these youthful Obama supporters cut their break short in order to come back and caucus.

A funny thing has happened on the way to Hillary's coronation march. Clinton, who looked inevitable back last fall was running neck-and-neck with Obama in polls as the old year ended. Some polls showed Clinton in the lead while other's showed Obama winning.

Clinton is clearly worried. Her campaign strategy has shifted from stressing competence to convincing people that she is a nice person and not a malicious, spiteful, domineering woman. She even left her usual mode of aerial transportation in the broom closet and flew around Iowa in the "Hill-a-Copter."

Getting beat by Obama in Iowa and New Hampshire will create be a serious problem for Clinton. It will guarantee an Obama victory in the South Carolina primary, also coming up this month.

When Clinton's nomination looked like a sure thing, most black "Democrats" supported her. This is because black party activists vote with their heads. Clinton would, as president, probably be sympathetic to their interests, and it's helpful to bet on the winning horse in any race.

An Obama victory in Iowa and New Hampshire would change this. The primary voters and caucus participants in these contests will be overwhelmingly white. Obama, by winning in these states, will prove that he can do well among white voters. This would mean, to black "Democrats" that they could potentially help elect America's first black president, who is also a liberal "Democrat."

December opinion polls already showed black support for Clinton eroding as her lead over Obama evaporated. An Obama victory in these two early contests will greatly help him in South Carolina because that state is blacker than most states. The majority of those participating in that state's "Democratic" primary will probably be black and they will decide the contest. If Obama heads into South Carolina looking like a winner, he will leave as the winner.

These losses could create additional problems for Clinton. She is the most polarizing of any of the "Democratic" Party's front runners and this concerns some "Democrats." A FOX News poll late last month indicated Clinton has a 49 percent unfavorable rating. This is among fellow "Democrats." Her aura of inevitability kept a lot of worried "Democrats" quiet last year. She would no longer be the inevitable nominee if she loses to Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Then, it will be politically safe for these folks to oppose her nomination.

It could well be Hillary Clinton who's campaign has smoke coming off it when Feb. 5 rolls around.

Virginia doesn't hold's its "Democratic" and Republican primaries on Feb. 12. The Republican nomination probably still be open, by that time, and the "Democratic" nomination may not be a done deal either, so your vote can still count.