In the Democratic primaries of 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both won about 18 million votes. Obama, in a 2016 interview with Politico.com, acknowledged that Hillary could have easily beat him:
“The truth is, in 2007 and 2008, sometimes my supporters and my staff I think got too huffy about what were legitimate questions she was raising,” he admitted. “And there were times where I think the media probably was a little unfair to her and tilted a little my way in calling her out.”
In fact, he said, Clinton “had a tougher job throughout that primary than I did.”
“She had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels,” he said. “She had to wake up earlier than I did because she had to get her hair done. She had to, you know, handle all the expectations that were placed on her.”
“Had things gone a little bit different in some states or if the sequence of primaries and caucuses been a little different,” Obama added, “she could have easily won.”
Despite the suspicion among Hillary-haters that she will say or do anything to win, if she had played dirtier, she probably could have won the 2008 nomination. If Obama's connection to Rev. Jeremiah Wright had been exposed shortly before the Iowa caucuses, as Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics points out in a Wall Street Journal column, odds are Barack Obama would not have won the Democratic nomination for president:
And even if we assume Mr. Obama could have managed to hang on and win Iowa after the appearance of his good reverend, which is debatable, it's a near certainty he would not have won as many primaries and caucuses by as many votes around the country as he did in January and February.
In other words, it would be a totally different ballgame.
Another factor: John Edwards finished second in Iowa, with 30 percent of the vote. If the story of his affair with Rielle Hunter, expecting a child with her, had broken into the news media -- if his team was not successful in covering up the scandal and Edwards was forced to drop out in November, 2007 when the National Enquirer first started snooping around, much of his support might have gone to Hillary Clinton. If Hillary won the Iowa caucuses, she would have had momentum going into other primaries and Obama likely would not have caught fire.
Story has yet to be written on the timing of the Jeremiah Wright bombshell. Could Hillary's staff have exposed it without their finger prints? Given time to think, Obama handled it well, with a speech on race in Philadelphia. But caught off guard, with different timing, it might have hurt him in Iowa, and Hillary could easily have won the nomination in 2008. She would be president 2009 to at least 2013, if not until 2017. She likely would have picked Obama as her vice presidential candidate, and, as sitting vice president, he would probably be going into the 2016 election with a clear advantage over Republicans, promoted as someone who "could heal America's racial divide." Oh, the ironies of history.