How Do You Upend a Phenom?

Facing Obama's surge, Hillary may not have Bill's magic when it comes to being a 'comeback kid.'

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Just over the weekend, Barack Obama seems to have vaulted to "phenom" status thanks to a strong performance in the last Democratic debate and an unending surge of interest and support from young Americans. A Democratic source on Obama's campaign told me he had double the number of volunteers he needed to amass his New Hampshire campaign force, and hundreds of mainly young Americans were turned away by the Obama campaign for volunteer slots.

In the Clinton camp, on the other hand, after months of running a campaign that worked seamlessly, Hillary Clinton now seems not to be able to do much right. And her numbers are slipping precipitously. To go from tied to behind by double digits in a matter of days is nothing short of, well, phenomenal.

How can Clinton turn things around at this point? It'll be tough. She is by no means out of the race anytime soon, by virtue of her multimillion-dollar war chest if nothing else. But without a stronger showing in New Hampshire, she had better win all the big states on Super-Duper Tuesday in February if she wants to stay competitive.

Can she look to her husband's "Comeback Kid" routine as an example of how to turn a poor showing in Iowa into a win or strong second in New Hampshire? This close to D-Day, it's unlikely. You will recall that Bill Clinton gave a pivotal campaign speech in Dover, N.H., in 1992, "when, under attack for marital infidelity and avoiding the military draft, he said, 'I'll tell you what the real character issue is, who really cares about you.' "

That speech resulted in his strong second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. He then went on to win the White House.

Hillary Clinton has a very different set of problems, and it's highly unlikely that a speech a day before the primary will change her numbers dramatically in New Hampshire.