The word “inevitable” was used to describe Hillary Clinton’s rise to power, but that was then. Now the only thing inevitable is that her bid for the presidency is set to become an interesting chapter in the book about the 2008 US presidential election, not the book itself.

If current form is any guide, that book will be all about Barack Obama. That is, if Ralph Nader doesn’t scuttle his campaign come election day. When Al Gore lost the 2000 election by only a handful of votes, some suggested Nader, a third party candidate, took crucial votes from the Democratic candidate. Will he do it again? Will he attract a similar number of votes in the vastly different political landscape of 2008? Or will voters reject him as an attention-seeking spoiler?

Saying farewell: I’ll begin at the end, because somehow it seems most pertinent. At the close of last night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton conveyed the impression that she is preparing herself for defeat. Some of this was communicated in her words: “And, you know, no matter what happens in this contest – and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored. Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends.” More importantly, it was communicated in the way she spoke those words. She sounded wistful, as if resigned to her political fate. – Dick Polman

Campaign strategy not worth the name: The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup. That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. – Frank Rich, New YorkTimes

Mistake after mistake: Although she is desperate for a big win, Clinton has frittered away almost three weeks in astonishingly trivial pursuits. It’s as though her computer blew a fuse after Super Tuesday on Feb. 5 and she doesn’t know what to do. Or who she wants to be. Internal campaign feuds are becoming public, she is running low on cash and the message changes as often as Hillary’s pantsuits. – Michael Goodwin, Daily News

Saving Hillary: I see from the gay newspaper the Washington Blade that, as the headline writer put it, “Clinton Leads Among Gay Super Delegates.” Only in the Democratic Party. I don’t know how many supergays it takes to outvote the nonsuper primary and caucus voters from Maine to Nevada to Hawaii. They may yet pull Sen. Clinton’s chestnuts out of the fire, but they’re looking pretty charred and indigestible right now. – Mark Steyn, OC Register

A poorly managed sales job: Part of the reason Clinton is not winning is that her political narrative has been defined by everyone else. In a large sense, her “brand” is not her own. When an advertiser or strategist is selling something, whether a product or a candidate, brand is important. Think of it as a little index card in the brain that conjures up one or two images that define what or who a product or person is. – Selena Zito, Real Clear Politics

Nader’s pitch: Nader’s participation offers him the chance to air to a wider audience his view on corporate power and what he sees as the failure of traditional Washington politics dominated by lobbyists. “You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalised and disrespected,” he said. “You go from Iraq, to Palestine to Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bumbling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts.” – Ewan MacAskill, Guardian

Nader be gone: If the Academy Awards could give a lifetime achievement award for vainglorious pomposity and self-indulgence, the Oscar goes to Ralph Nader. Had Ralph Nader not run in 2000, President Al Gore would be finishing his second term. The Iraq war would never have happened, Abu Ghraib would have been nothing more than a fiction in horror movies. – Brent Budowsky, Huffington Post

Peter Fray

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