Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign got underway before most of the other ones; eight years ago, as a matter of fact. Only the most hopeless naifs saw her carpetbagging senatorial campaign as anything other than a prelude to a run for the big brass ring. She spent her time in the Senate trying to establish her bona fides as someone distinct from Mrs. Bill Clinton, the First Lady that had been viewed by much of America as an evil-tempered harpy, and putting together an image of thoughtful statesmanship designed to carry her into the Oval Office.
As the current campaign got underway, it seemed that her work had paid off. The word "inevitable" was bandied about, and early primaries seemed to support that conclusion. But the wheels on the wagon started to wobble...
No sooner had Obama's campaign turned things into a horse race, than the carefully cultivated image of the Kinder, Gentler Hillary began to slip. The Illinois senator had stumbled across the perfect weapon against Hillary's inevitability: Nothing. Faced with punching air, Hillary began flailing wildly. With no positions to attack, she was left no choice but to go after Obama himself, and Mr. & Mrs. Middle America are reminded of the termagant they spent the eight years of the Clinton administration loving to hate.
In a matter of months we have gone from a Hillary campaign that was a juggernaut of inevitability to a Hillary that looks like a Limbaugh parody of First Lady Clinton, lashing out in snide personal attacks and quibbling over the definitions of "denounce" and "reject". Left hitting smoke, Clinton looks less the polished senator and more the character of a Barbara Olson nightmare, complete with staff shakeups and circular firing squads of insider finger-pointing. Make fun of Barack's empty rhetoric of Change and Hope all you want, but it was the perfect iceberg to put in the path of the unsinkable Clinton.
EDITED TO ADD: Incidentally, McCain is plagued by almost identical personality handicaps, but was saved from them by the fact that A) He started at the back of the pack, B) His opponents folded quickly, and C) The "Will The Real Conservative Please Stand Up" theme of the GOP debates provided him something to talk about other than what a bunch of poopie-heads he thought his opponents were.