Read here in The Telegraph (UK)
During the agonising denouement of the past three months, she has been the inevitable runner-up.
She's still in it, she protests, even now.
But she has lost.
The seeds of that defeat lay in the very strategy she and her chief strategist Mark Penn had mapped out more than a year before.
As the new face of Team Clinton - then the most powerful brand in Democratic politics - she could build up the momentum and money needed to lock up the nomination BEFORE the voters were consulted.
Even before her first event in Iowa, her focus seemed to be on the general election.
She believed her greatest threat was John Edwards, running as a populist friend of the downtrodden.
Having carefully positioned herself - and badly miscalculated - with her vote for the Iraq invasion in October, she recalibrated repeatedly until she became an opponent of the war.
But rather than apologise for her vote, as Mr Edwards had done, she refused to admit she'd been wrong for fear of seeming weak in a general election against Rudy Giuliani or John McCain.
She reckoned WITHOUT a young freshman senator called Barack Obama.
In December 2006, it was already clear he had become a political rock star, attracting adoring crowds at book signings and already drawing comparisons with John and Robert Kennedy.
"The single most important thing that happened was the Clinton campaign always underestimated Senator Obama," said Simon Rosenberg, a veteran of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and president of the NDN think tank.
"Even when Obama started to rise, he didn't become in their minds their central opponent. They also overestimated their own strength. Her staff kept saying she was leading in all national polls but she was never leading in Iowa and that was the most important poll of all."
Mention of Mr Obama would often prompt an eye roll from an inhabitant of Hillaryland - a hermetically-sealed bubble protected by the Secret Service and from which all naysayers were kept out. Like President George W Bush, Mrs Clinton put a premium on loyalty, which meant hard truths were seldom aired.
"He lives in a happy, cool place where everyone sips their lattes, listens to National Public Radio and reads 'The New York Times'," one young Clinton staffer said last August. "But it's not the real world. He'd have been a great guy to hang out with at college but he's not tough enough for any of this. It's just a fad."
The 2006 mid-term elections showed a hunger for change and a contempt for Washington while in many ways Mrs Clinton was the ultimate Washington creature.
She had a 350-strong staff and recruited bloggers and new media whizzes but Mrs Clinton's web strategy came across as slightly forced, as if she was a parent gamely learning all the right moves but often hitting a jarring note.
Obama -Master of the Internet
Mr Obama, on the other hand, was fast becoming an internet phenomenon. Rather than having to create an online operation, his challenge was to harness the enthusiasm. His background as a community organiser helped immensely. So too did recruits appointment like that of Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook.
Much was learnt from the experience of Howard Dean's campaign in 2004, the first to attempt to harness the internet. "We didn't have YouTube, MySpace or Facebook to any large degree in 2004," said Joe Trippi, who was Mr Dean's campaign manager.
"There were 1.4 million blogs then. Today there are 77 million blogs. The Obama team could go to school on Dean and look at what worked and what didn't for us. We were the Wright Brothers. They went straight to landing a man on the moon - or in the White House anyway."
The portrayal of Mr Obama as "Obambi", a frail creature unsuited to the rough and tumble of a campaign was misplaced.
He had grown up in the Chicago school of politics, forcing a rival off the ballot over technicalities over signatures when he first ran for State Senate in 1996. Never afraid to use sharp elbows on the basketball court, once in the state legislature, he learned to play poker - and well.
Bill Clinton's Negative Performance
Against the Obama message of change, Mrs Clinton's most potent weapon was her husband Bill - who for all his political attributes embodied the past. On the stump in Iowa, Mr Clinton briefly used the slogan "back to the future" for his wife's candidacy.
Mr Obama, neatly modifying an earlier Clinton slogan, urged voters not to "build a bridge back to the 20th Century".
The more Mr Clinton talked, the more he said about himself, waxing nostalgic about the perks of being commander-in-chief, the Marine Corps bands, the motorcades, the "best public housing in America".
Democrats became uncomfortable about the notion of a co-presidency and Mr Clinton's trumpeting of his own achievements undercut his wife's claims of deep foreign policy experience gained in the White House.
Mr Rosenberg believes Mr Clinton was a net plus for his wife because "he enabled her to be two places at once and he also bolstered her strategically, emotionally, politically". But, he added: "One some days it was positive and on some days not so much."
The "not so much" days became more frequent as Mr Clinton's frustrations about the "fairy tale" of Mr Obama becoming the Democratic nominee boiled over.
A master of old-style retail politics, he had not mastered the new YouTube world. Video clips of a scarlet-faced former president wagging his finger at reporters or making a preposterous remark provide some of the defining images of the 2008 campaign.
Hillary Losing the Black Voters
Mr Clinton - once memorably declared as the "first black president" - blundered into the racial sensitivities of African Americans. When he appeared to dismiss Mr Obama's huge South Carolina win by comparing it, unprompted to those of Jesse Jackson, also black and the primary victor in 1984 and 1988, the tide turned.
Thereafter, Mr Obama drew the almost unanimous support of black voters - a key demographic in the Democratic party. Mrs Clinton was able to expose Mr Obama's weaknesses among white working class males and older women but losing the entire black vote was disastrous for her.
Mr Clinton's comments, moreover, were instrumental in pushing the Kennedy clan into the Obama camp. In January, when Senator Ted Kennedy announced it was "time for a new generation of leadership", the Clintons were holed below the waterline.
Hillary's Mistakes Piled Up
Almost unnoticed in the Clinton campaign, Mr Obama was building a formidable grassroots organisation across the country. His fundraising success meant he did not need to be an insurgent candidate - guided by his campaign manager David Plouffe, he became Organisation Man.
In December 2007, Mrs Clinton let slip: "I'm in it for the long run. It's not a very long run. It'll be over by February 5th."
It was a huge miscalculation. After Mr Obama fought her to a draw on February 5th - Super Tuesday - she had no plan for what to do next. Mr Plouffe and his team had sent staff to every corner of the country.
While Mrs Clinton concentrated on the big states, Mr Obama built a presence in caucus states like Idaho, North Dakota and Kansas, raking in more delegates than even Mrs Clinton's victories in places like New Jersey and Texas would yield.
Mrs Clinton made many mistakes but she lost to a candidate who also had his difficulties, with a fiery anti-American preacher and some unfortunate comments about working class voters being "bitter" and clinging to God and guns.
Hillary Up Against a BETTER Candidate
Ultimately, she was defeated because she was up against the better candidate. "Obama's message of the past versus the future was always going to be extremely compelling in this race," said Mr Rosenberg. "They [the Clintons] were slow to recognise the power of him and the power of his argument.
"But when you deconstruct what happened, you have start with the fact that he has a remarkable ability to connect and communicate. He's arguably one of the most powerful public speakers America has seen in generation. He's an exceptional man and an extraordinary candidate."
Thursday, June 05, 2008