Three weeks out from the Iowa caucuses, and clarity emerges.
Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, is in trouble.
Polls show her slightly ahead of Socialist Bernie Sanders in Iowa, but narrowly behind in New Hampshire. And the weekend brought new revelations about yet more classified and secret documents sent over her private email server when she was secretary of state.
Between now and November, she will be traversing a minefield, with detonations to be decided upon by FBI investigators who may not cherish Clinton, and might like to appear in the history books.
Clinton’s charge about Donald Trump’s alleged “penchant for sexism” brought a counterstrike —her being the “enabler” of Bill Clinton’s long career as a sexual predator — that rendered her mute.
But with Hillary Clinton having raised the subject, it is almost certain to be reintroduced in the fall, if she is the nominee.
Then there is the newly recognized reality that Clinton, who ran a terrific comeback race against Barack Obama in 2008, is not the candidate she was. Nor is Bill the imposing surrogate he once was.
Both are eight years older, and show it. “Low energy” nails it.
Lastly, Hillary Clinton now has a record to defend as secretary of state, a four-year term in which it is hard to see, looking back, a success.
Moreover, a defeat by Sanders in Iowa or New Hampshire could prove unraveling, with the press herd tapping out early obits.
New Hampshire has consequences.
A Granite State defeat by Sen. Estes Kefauver ended Harry Truman’s bid for re-election in 1952. Lyndon Johnson’s narrow write-in victory over Sen. Eugene McCarthy, 49-42, brought Bobby Kennedy into the race — and LBJ’s withdrawal two weeks later.
George H. W. Bush’s unimpressive New Hampshire win in 1992 brought Ross Perot in as a third-party candidate two days later, and Bob Dole’s loss in 1996 portended defeat in the general election.
But if a cloud is forming over the Clinton campaign, the sun continues to shine on The Donald.
Last July, in a column, “Could Trump Win?” this writer argued that if Trump held his then 20 percent share, he would make the final four and almost surely be in the finals in the GOP nomination race.
Now, in every national and state poll save Iowa, Trump runs first with more than 30 percent, sometimes touching 40. And, save in New Hampshire, Sen. Ted Cruz runs second to Trump.
What does the surge for Socialist Sanders, and the Republican base’s backing of the outsiders Trump and Cruz, and collective recoil from the Republican establishment candidates, tell us?
“The times they are a changing,” sang Bob Dylan in 1964.
Dylan was right about the social, cultural and moral revolution that would hit with Category 5 force when the boomers arrived on campuses that same year.
A concomitant conservative revolution would dethrone the GOP establishment of Govs. Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney and William Scranton in 1964, and nominate Barry Goldwater.
Something like that is afoot again. Only, this time, the GOP has a far better shot of capturing the White House than in 1964 or, indeed, than it appeared to have at this point in 1980, The Year of Reagan.
In June 1964, Goldwater, about to be nominated, was 59 points behind LBJ, 77-18, in the Gallup Poll. On Sept. 1, he was still 36 points behind, 65-29. In mid-October, Barry was still 36 points behind, when some of us concluded that Mr. Conservative just might not make it.
Yet, in January and February of 1980, Ronald Reagan, during the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary, never got closer than 25 points behind President Jimmy Carter, who led Reagan, on March 1, 58-33. Yet, that November, 1980, Reagan won a 44-state landslide.
Today, according to a new Fox Poll, Trump would beat Clinton by 3 points in the general election, if held now. Another poll shows Trump pulling 20 percent of the Democratic vote.
What this suggests is that nominating Trump is by no means a guarantee of GOP defeat. But beyond politics, what do the successes of Sanders, Trump and Cruz portend?
Well, Sanders and Trump both opposed the war in Iraq that the Bush Republicans and Clinton Democrats supported.
Both Sanders and Trump oppose NAFTA and MFN for China and the free-trade deals that Clinton Democrats and Bush Republicans backed, which have cost us thousands of lost factories, millions of lost jobs, and four decades of lost wage increases for Middle America.
Trump has taken the toughest line on the invasion across the U.S.-Mexican border and against Muslim refugees entering unvetted.
Immigration, securing the border, fair trade — Trump’s issues are the issues of 2016.
If a Trump-Clinton race came down to the Keystone State of Pennsylvania, and Trump was for backing our men in blue, gun rights, securing America’s borders, no more NAFTAs, and a foreign policy that defends America first, who would you bet on?