Brett Arends put out another great piece today that asks whether we're in a Hillary Clinton "bubble." It's important to ask tough questions.

I feel comfortable offering an unconditional answer. No, Clinton's candidacy is for real. I would be very careful shorting her chances at winning the Democratic nomination and possibly the presidency.

Rhetoric about politics often uses sports and betting metaphors. We love to look at the polls and see who's "pulling ahead" and who has "fallen behind." You can't bet on politics in the U.S., but in England they will bet on anything --

especially

politics.

Sports and politics do have a lot in common. But Arends misses one aspect that they do not share. I can't just walk onto the baseball diamond and start playing for Yankees, although they needed me last night. In politics, however, everyone gets to participate -- yep, it's called voting.

The first few polls of the fall have been demoralizing for Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) and John Edwards. Clinton has extended her big lead in New Hampshire, where independents can vote in either a Democratic or Republican primary. Obama supposedly has strong support among independents. Edwards, on the other hand, has seen polls showing his lead Iowa evaporate - some in favor of Hillary and some for Obama.

The biggest statistic in a poll, however, is strength of support.

A poll this week showed Clinton's supporters felt strongly about her candidacy and were unlikely to change their vote. She leads Obama in this category by about 10%. And she now enjoys more than 50% of Democrats supporting her -- a first in this campaign season.

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Pundits recognize the fall as the beginning of the real campaign season. It's crunch time. The ads have starting hitting the airwaves, and pundits are circling like vultures waiting for candidates to make a mistake.

Clinton has not made mistakes. The same can't be said for her opponents. Both Edwards and Obama had a chance to distinguish themselves from Clinton on Iraq in the

recent debate on MSNBC. They failed miserably, agreeing for the most part with Clinton.

And yesterday, Obama had to mention he doesn't wear a flag pin anymore because he feels his patriotism in his heart. OK, great. But why are we mentioning it? Suddenly, he's switched the topic to superficial nonsense and gets away from talking about the issues.

A good political campaign achieves an important goal --the aura of inevitability. The Clinton campaign has done this very quickly. Furthermore, Clinton -- and her husband, Bill -- have proved something no Democrat has since FDR. They can win not only one election, but two, and they don't take their supporters for granted.

People want to vote for the eventual winner, and nobody likes being a loser. I think people perceive Clinton as a winner.

This is one of the reasons the Republicans fear the Clintons: They know how to win. The Clintons also know how to fight back. This hasn't been the case with other Democrats. Al Gore wound up losing the election because he couldn't effectively answer his critics on stupid exaggerations, like inventing the Internet. John Kerry waited forever to respond to the Swiftboat attacks. His volunteer military service in a combat role went up in smoke to a guy who had his father pull strings to dodge active military duty for Texas Air Force Reserve.

I think Democrats want someone to stick up for them in Washington. It hasn't happened with either Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi.

I loved Arends' piece. His arguments would make a ton of sense if this were a stock or a sporting contest. But beware of thinking it's a Clinton "bubble." This is politics, baby.