Elections can be about policy, personality or identity. The race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is surely not about policy. The differences between the two are microscopic.More evidence--look at Mississippi.
It did not start out that way. Last year, when Hillary was headed toward a coronation, she deliberately ran to the center. She took more moderate views on Iraq, for example, and voted to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
When she began taking heat for those positions from the other candidates and the Democratic Party's activist core, and as her early lead began to erode, she quickly tacked left and found herself inhabiting precisely the same ideological space as Obama.
With no substantive policy differences left, the Obama-Clinton campaign was reduced to personality and identity. Not advantageous ground for Hillary. In a personality contest with the charismatic young phenom, she loses in a landslide.
What to do? First, adjust your own persona. Hence that New Hampshire tear and an occasional strategic show of vulnerability to soften her image. It worked for a while, but personality remakes are simply too difficult to pull off for someone as ingrained in the national consciousness as Clinton.
If you cannot successfully pretty yourself, dirty the other guy. Hence the relentless attacks designed to redefine Obama and take him down to the level of ordinary mortals, i.e., Hillary's. Thus the contrived shock on the part of the Clinton campaign that an Obama economic adviser would tell the Canadians not to pay too much attention to Obama's anti-NAFTA populism or that Samantha Power would tell the BBC not to pay too much attention to Obama's current withdrawal plans for Iraq.
Identity and persona are going to carry the day and this is why Clinton is trailing.