With the holidays now approaching, the year is on the verge of ending as it began, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in firm command of the Democratic presidential race and looking rather good for the presidency itself. The weekend's Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines saw her remaining rivals -- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley -- take some shots at her but seemingly score few points.
The former first lady and New York senator remains vulnerable, at least to a certain extent, for her relative closeness to Wall Street and her past advocacy of the epic debacle that was the Iraq War, the gift that will keep on giving to fans of chaos for a very long time to come.
But Sanders and O'Malley still don't know how to go after Hillary around Iraq, which I discussed a month ago. And she has made some adjustments to her economic program, going in a more social democratic direction in the context of her rather newfound devotion to the Roosevelts, which blurs her Wall Street vulnerability.
Perhaps most importantly, she was aided in the latest debate by the shocking Friday the 13th Isis attacks on Paris. Clinton simply has much more gravitas and fluency in discussing national security and geopolitical issues than do her rivals.
Sanders had seized the polling lead over Hillary in the first two contests in the Democratic presidential race, the Iowa caucuses, set for February 1st, and the primary in next door (for him) New Hampshire on February 9th. But Hillary has regained the lead in both states, and has huge leads in the other two February contest states, Nevada and South Carolina.
Sanders has a very sizable campaign warchest, thanks to his great success in raising big money in small amounts on the strength of his democratic socialist economic message. But unless he regains the edge in New Hampshire, his best shot, given the Granite State's great familiarity with him, or Iowa, the Democratic race could be quickly ended in the next few months.
Meanwhile, the Republicans, who placed so many of their hopes in getting a compliant media to tear down Hillary on what looks like mostly penny ante concerns about her e-mails, are in a terrible fix.
Donald Trump and Ben Carson, despite the assurances of many Republican political pros, just haven't evaporated. In fact, Trump seems to have surged in the past week .
Which shouldn't be so surprising. When you play with fire by helping create a political party in which half the voters, as I discussed several days ago, reject science, don't be surprised that the most aggressive know-nothings develop such huge followings.
That, and the thoroughgoing mediocrity of the elected officials trying to run for the Republican presidential nomination -- hello Jeb Bush! -- makes the competitive situation look pretty darn favorable for Hillary despite her vulnerabilities.
The huge new wild card, of course, is the war against Isis. It's hard to see that conflict not getting a lot bigger after a stunning two-week period in which the radical Islamic jihadist outfit bombed a Russian jetliner over Egypt, bombed a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, and launched horrifying attacks in Paris.
Isis, notwithstanding President Barack Obama's singularly ill-timed claim of just a few days ago, is decidedly not contained after a year of American air strikes and stop-and-start ground action. Chaos is again in the saddle.
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