For anyone who doesn't think that those living in Washington, DC for any extended period of the time end up with Beltway Brain, watching '08 contenders face reality and dropping out of the race is concrete proof.
The simple fact that someone such as Bill Frist even considers the possibility of running for President shows how warped one gets surrounded by lobbyists, self-interested staffers and media consultants who will go down fighting for their 8-15%.
One by one on the Democratic side, contenders only in the minds of their own staffs and consultants will see that those single digit polling numbers are real. There is little glamour in being a long shot - especially when you've been told there's a path to the Presidency for you. The conflict becomes apparent early.
On one hand, I believe we will miss the presence of Evan Bayh and Mark Warner on the Democratic side. Both men bring experience in a different part of the company to that national stage and their presence in the debate would have been healthy.
However, the road to the White House is no longer a place for long shots - it is a costly all-consuming marathon. Senator Bayh was calling former Kerry fundraisers less than two weeks after the '04 loss. Mark Warner had a fully functioning staff six months ago. Already, people are making 08 decisions with 2012 in mind. Maybe this is a good development. Maybe not. But it is the reality.
The focus now turns not only to the now Big Three, Clinton, Obama and Edwards, but also to those running in the second tier looking for an opening which increasingly does not appear to be there. Recent polls show the Big Three taking up to 80% of the support with the rest fractured among current also-rans.
As Clinton, Obama and Edwards make their runs official, what true support will there be left for Vilsack, Kucinich, Richardson, Biden, Kerry, Clark and more? Precious little I imagine.
Each of those men starts from a different spot in their personal and political lives. Each men may, ultimately, to start or continue their runs against the odds - hoping that, perhaps, one of the Big Three decides not to run, and that Al Gore does not decide to make it the Final Four.
Each of these men has something to offer the debate and the country. But each will see, over the coming weeks, that the plan and the strategy and feedback they've been paying for in Washington is worth its weight in gold, in Washington.
Out here, reality is harsh. And reality always wins.