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Bill Shipp - Axiom: Don't hit women

Conventional wisdom holds that the polls were all wrong about Barack Obama having a whopping lead over Hillary Clinton going into New Hampshire.

Conventional wisdom errs. The polls were right when they were taken. The real mistake regarding Hillary was committed by her rivals John Edwards and Obama. Presidential politics ain't boxing. O&E hit Hillary much too hard. They overplayed their hands in the extreme as they took turns pounding her. Shame on you, boys.

You must have missed class the day they taught axiom No. 6 of presidential politics. "Hell hath no fury like a scorned bloc of women voters." You also missed your reading assignments: "Just Because You Are a Misogynist, You Don't Have to Act Like One in Public" and "The Myth That Women Secretly Love Being Insulted by Guys with Expensive Haircuts."

Give Obama the booby prize for stupidity at the Saturday debate before the New Hampshire primary. Hillary started to pick up momentum the moment a male panelist blithely asked why so many voters don't like Hillary and Obama quipped, "She's likeable enough." Heh-heh-heh.

"That hurt my feelings," Hillary said later. It apparently hurt a lot of other female feelings too. Hillary choking up over the presidential campaign also may have gained her some sympathy, but the overall meanness toward her in the debate had far greater effect.

O&E should have watched the films of the 2000 New York Senate debate before they assailed Hillary in the final New Hampshire match-up.

Remember what happened? Her challenger, then-Congressman Rick Lazio, aggressively approached Hillary on stage to demand she disavow "soft money" in the race. Lazio came on like a New York Giants tackle. His bullying even turned off hardened New Yorkers and propelled Hillary into the Senate.

We wander. Let's return to the future. Georgia is lucky to have a huge air hub in Atlanta. Otherwise, we could not assume the role of Stopover Heaven in the upcoming Feb. 5 Super-Duper presidential primary. We would just be another middle-size state lost in the clash of titan jurisdictions from the North and West.

As the campaign circus heads into the Feb. 5 volcano, here are some questions that loom large over the election and perhaps our national destiny:

1. Will the Democratic nomination finally boil down to a contest of women vs. blacks? If so, how will most black women vote? We forget that discrimination against women runs as deeply and predates mistreatment of blacks. Black males were given the right to vote more than a half-century before guys like O&E decided it was OK for women to vote too - if they would just stop nagging.

2. Will John Edwards still be around for the primary in Georgia, a state where he has amassed an impressive list of supporters? If he continues to collect delegates, he will be.

3. Is Obama another Gary Hart - a smooth talker with lots of drive but not much else? Hart burst on the scene like a roman candle, then faded like a bad film. Is that Obama? Gary couldn't take a punch. Can Barack?

Campaign note: Support for Obama and Clinton among African-American leaders is split almost along generational lines. Hillary counts old-timers John Lewis, Calvin Smyre and Hank Aaron among her backers. Obama's supporters include Shirley Franklin, Kasim Reed, Lisa Borders and Hank Johnson.

4. Will Mitt Romney make it to the South? If so, will his Mormonism cause him problems? If he does not survive, where will the Republican establishment turn?

5. Related puzzler: Is John McCain already becoming the darling of panicky white-shoe Republicans intent on stopping Mike Huckabee from becoming the nominee for the Gomer Pyle?

6. Whatever happened to Rudy Giuliani? Ralph Reed, give me ring. I want to make sure your guy is still running and not just dodging the mob or back in the Big Apple chasing show girls again.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net.