- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2016

History is on the verge of repeating itself in Iowa, where Hillary Clinton is faced with the prospect of a second defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in Monday’s caucuses.

Polling shows she is in equally bad — and maybe even worse — shape this year than she was in 2008, when her first seemingly unstoppable path to the Democratic nomination fell apart in stunning fashion, beginning with an upset loss to Barack Obama in Iowa.

Analysts say no overriding fundamental flaw can explain the second Clinton collapse — other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She also has been unable to strike the right emotional chord with voters, who tell pollsters that they don’t trust her and view her as a Washington insider at a time when they are looking to shake things up.

“No doubt she has considerable support. Look at her endorsements from members of Congress and political leaders around the county and a variety of interest groups. She is in many ways the establishment candidate and the Obama legacy candidate. Is this the kind of election in which the voters want change or not?” said G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst and professor at Pennsylvania’s Franklin and Marshall College.

The Clinton campaign is still banking on a “Southern firewall” to stop the momentum of Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent and self-described socialist who has mounted a much tougher primary challenge than virtually anyone anticipated.

A Real Clear Politics average of all polls shows Mrs. Clinton with a massive edge over Mr. Sanders in South Carolina, 62.5 percent to 29.5 percent.

Elsewhere, however, polling numbers are eerily similar to those of 2008.

At this point in the 2008 race — several days out from the Iowa caucuses — Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Obama in national polling by about 20 percentage points. She currently leads Mr. Sanders by about 15 points, Real Clear Politics averages show.

In Iowa, it’s a dead heat, just as it was in 2008 when Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton were within a couple of percentage points of each other as the caucuses approached.

Even the New Hampshire polls are somewhat similar. In 2008, Mr. Obama at this point in the race led Mrs. Clinton by 8 percentage points in the Granite State, though she pulled off a surprise win.

Right now, Mr. Sanders is up by 14 points in New Hampshire, polls show.

One key difference between 2008 and this cycle is that Mrs. Clinton has dispatched her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to the campaign trail much earlier. In 2008, Mr. Clinton made few appearances before his wife’s defeat in Iowa.

This time, he was a fixture on the trail by early January, making frequent stops in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Progressive leaders who have spurned the Clintons and lined up behind Mr. Sanders say they don’t believe the former secretary of state is a fundamentally flawed candidate.

Instead, they argue that Mr. Obama and Mr. Sanders simply have been better-equipped to deliver the messages Democrats want to hear at the time.

“In 2008, she was up against Barack Obama, a once-in-a-lifetime political talent, and one who was uniquely meant for that moment,” said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for the liberal PAC Democracy For America, which is backing Mr. Sanders. “And the same thing, to a similar extent — what you have in Bernie Sanders is someone whose message is uniquely resonant at this moment in time.”

Indeed, Mr. Sanders’ anti-Wall Street message has captivated progressives and young voters, the same blocs that helped propel Mr. Obama past Mrs. Clinton in 2008.

But analysts say some deeper problems have made matters worse for the Clinton camp. Surveys consistently show that voters find Mr. Sanders much more trustworthy and honest than Mrs. Clinton.

Analysts say Mrs. Clinton has aided that perception with her handling of the scandal around her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

“Much too late, she said it was a mistake to have the private email server. She’s always been reluctant to admit fault,” said William Chafe, a historian at Duke University and author of the book “Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal.” “The more she becomes someone who says, ‘I make mistakes all the time but I always try to improve myself’ … the better off she is.”

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