A recent poll showed that Hillary Rodham Clinton was by far the Democrats' favorite for the party's 2008 presidential race, beating the combined total of the next three likeliest candidates. Of course, these early polls are heavily influence by name recognition, and Clinton has name recognition in abundance — perhaps second only to President Bush as America's best-known politician.
But first Clinton has to win re-election as U.S. senator from New York in 2006. As the expression goes, not a problem. Her approval ratings in the state are over 60 percent, and the big-name New York Republicans who could give her a decent run, retiring Gov. George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have other plans.
This week, Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, a favorite of the state's Republican regulars, got into the race. But the opening paragraph of the Associated Press story on her announcement suggests a few problems for her candidacy:
"Five years ago, in her husband's tax evasion trial, Jeanine Pirro heard prosecutors claim he had illegally deducted the expenses of their luxury cars, a paternity suit and even the custom-made pen for their pet pigs, Wilbur and Orville."
A seemingly interminable 32-second pause in her announcement speech while she searched for a missing page 10 indicates her campaign machinery is less than well-oiled.
Also in the GOP field is Edward Cox, a New York City lawyer and son-in-law of the late President Richard Nixon. He doesn't get Pirro's publicity, but that probably doesn't matter since polls show Clinton beating either one by better than a 2-to-1 margin.
Her one potential problem is demands in certain quarters, especially by opponents, that if re-elected, she promise to serve out her full term in the Senate, a pledge that if honored would remove her from the '08 presidential race and if ignored make her look duplicitous.
Clinton is too good a politician to stumble into that trap and will probably offer some locution to the effect that if re-elected she'll do whatever's best for the state of New York, the implication being that if a presidential race would benefit New York, so be it.
Meanwhile, a tell-all book, "The Truth About Hillary," that was supposed to have sunk her political career has itself sunk without a trace.
In politics it's not enough to be good, you have to be lucky, too. Hillary Rodham Clinton is lucky.