The impossible happened this weekend in college football when a hapless Stanford University led by a first-year coach and a backup quarterback, seized Troy and brought down the number one team in the country, the invincible University of Southern California.
To Vegas, a Trojan win was more inevitable than the presidency of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. USC was a 41-point favorite over the Cardinal. But, alas for us USC fans, the impossible happened and we lost 24-23. Yes, only by one point but in football, as politics, one point matters.
With each national poll that is released, Clinton’s nomination and election to become president of the United States appears inevitable. With all apologies to Fidel Castro, she is looking invincible with or without Barack Obama by her side if you listen to the political pundits. And that’s why Clinton risks the same tragedy as my USC Trojans.
USC never thought they could lose to Stanford. In the week before the game, the coaches went home early. In their pre-game walk to the Stadium, players and coaches looked more focused on having fun than on playing football. And when it came time to put the pads on, the coaches now admit that they never considered that Stanford might win when choosing which plays to call.
In a word, my friends, that’s hubris. And hubris, as my Spot-on colleague Mike Spinney pointed out yesterday, is the Democratic Party’s greatest enemy right now.
With the war in Iraq being unpopular and Congressional Republicans seeking to offend just about anyone from Latinos to sick children, Democrats must think that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will be handed to them on a silver platter right now. For Clinton and for the party as a whole such a cocksure mentality can only spell trouble. They’d do well to take a look at their party’s recent history here in California. After sweeping Statewide elections in 2002, the Democrats governed from the far left and their actions – and arrogance – led to the recall of Governor Gray Davis.
When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger limped out of the 2005 Special Election like a wounded puppy, Democrats turned far left again, nominating ultra-liberal tax-and-spender Phil Angelides over the more moderate Steve Westly. If you’re taking notes, Schwarzenegger’s still with us. Angelides couldn’t get arrested.
On Saturday night against Stanford, USC played like they had a big lead even when they didn’t because the coaches were so sure that if they played their game instead of playing to the circumstances of the game they were in they would have the lead. And playing with the lead is exactly what the Clinton for President campaign is doing today.
In national polling, Hillary Clinton leads her rivals for the democratic nomination by twofold. It’s not unlike the 41-point Vegas spread for USC over Stanford. So, if presidential politics were a football game, she would have two choices: Run up the score or sit on the lead. The risk of trying to run up the score is that you might make mistakes and give your opponents hope. The risk of sitting on a lead too early is that it may get chipped away until it is too close and when you need it you no longer are running at full speed.
Metaphorically, it seems that Clinton has chosen to sit on her lead. She is running as the frontrunner, eschewing town hall meetings, Q&A’s and is moving towards more scripted events. That kind of remoteness indicates a big of arrogance, doesn’t it? And that’s dangerous. If it doesn’t hurt Hillary in the primaries, it could trip her up in a general election where she suddenly has to campaign again as if it mattered.
They said that a Stanford loss to USC was inevitable just as some are predicting a second Clinton Presidency will be. But if Hillary runs her campaign with the same hubris as Pete Carroll coached the Trojans last week, she may not have an opportunity to redeem herself in the last seven games of the season.