Jonathan Chait makes a strong case that Hillary Clinton is less “inevitable” than current polling and the conventional wisdom make her appear. But I think his comparison with Joe Lieberman overstates things a bit.
It is true that Lieberman led in the early polling for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, largely based on name recognition. He maintained this lead into the summer of 2003. But Lieberman never enjoyed anything like the lead Hillary now holds. Lieberman’s numbers were rarely higher than the low 20s while Hillary holds a 20-point lead over her nearest rival in most polls. Lieberman usually held a single-digit lead and had Gephardt, Kerry, and Dean all polling close behind him. Moreover, his lead was tentative, as Democrats waited for better candidates — first Al Gore and then Hillary herself — to get into the race.
Hillary may yet implode, but she remains in a far stronger position against the more antiwar elements of her party than Joe Lieberman held during the 2004 cycle.