By Robert D. Novak
The Washingon Post
Sen. Hillary Clinton faces tonight’s Iowa caucuses not as the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee but seriously challenged by Sen. Barack Obama, thanks in no small part to committing a strategic error: premature triangulation. The problem is reflected in what happened to a proposal for a simplified, though far-reaching, health-care plan.
Health care is a particularly sensitive issue for Clinton. Her failed 1993-94 plan is blamed inside Democratic ranks for the Republican takeover in the ’94 elections and for freezing the entire health-care issue for a decade. While her current call for mandatory health-care coverage might seem radical, it is criticized on the left as embracing “shared responsibility” with private health insurance firms (similar to plans by Republican Govs. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California). That looks like triangulation.