If a Martian were to come down and follow the main candidates for a few days he would wonder why there was any question at all why Mrs Clinton should not be the anointed Democrat. Through the numerous debates, and on the stump across the country it is evident that she is the most knowledgeable, experienced and disciplined. Most of the time, like a Queen Elizabeth I or a Margaret Thatcher, she easily dominates the inferior men shuffling around her.
But she has not quite sealed the deal yet. Though her opinion poll lead among Democratic primary voters has widened in the past month or two, in the more important polls that measure popularity in the early primary states, her lead is narrower, or even disappears completely. She remains unpopular with many Americans.
So all the while, a faint patter of hope continues to beat in the hearts of the men in her wake. Barack Obama remains the closest challenger. The 46-year-old son of a black African and a Caucasian American continues to generate an excitement rare in political circles.
To be frank, that same Martian would have to wonder what exactly all the fuss was about the Illinois senator. His campaign has been, in substance, quite underwhelming. For all the luminous media coverage, the endless comparisons with John F. Kennedy, Mr Obama remains an oddly unconvincing world saviour. Watching him, you are struck by a sharp contradiction. There is Obama the Phenomenon – the Ideal, the Hope-Giver, the avatar of political change, national renewal and racial unity. Then there is Obama the man, the speaker with a rather pedestrian style, seemingly hobbled by caution. If he weren’t young and black, let’s be honest, he would be considered quite dull.
And this is before you even get to his biggest flaw – his lack of any real governing experience. In the past couple of weeks he has been in trouble over a couple of statements on foreign policy that his opponents seized on as evidence of his woeful unsuitability for h