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You rarely see the name “Hillary Clinton” without the phrase “frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination” surgically attached to it, and for good reason.

Or so it would seem, anyway.

Sen. Clinton certainly makes a good case for a possible presidential run. Supporters (and not a few detractors) point to two main talking points as to why the senator is the prohibitive favorite to win the nom: 1) Name recognition (undeniable) and 2) An insurmountable fundraising advantage (ditto). As if to prove it, Sen. Clinton spent a record $36 million to ensure a “blowout” reelection victory over her Republican opponent in New York. The money helped Sen. Clinton win by over 30 points—and also made the junior senator from New York the biggest campaign spender this cycle. (The #2 spender? Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who spent $24 mil to get his butt handed to him by Bob Casey.)

I want to direct you to a recent New York Times article on the subject. Since Sen. Clinton took office in 2001, she has spent at least 36 million smackaroos on her reelection, which she won with 67%. In contrast, her colleague Chuck Schumer spent less than half that—about $15.5 million—to get reelected in 2004, and won with 71% of the vote, four points more than Hillary did this year. Sen. Clinton also won a smaller percentage of the vote in New York this year than did Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer, who won 69% in his successful campaign.

Sen. Clinton’s reckless spending has left more than a few Dems a little PO’d. Clinton spent heavily in an effort to win in a blowout that would showcase her nationwide as a candidate who can appeal do independents and Republicans as well as true blue Dems, setting her up for a White House run. But the strategy may have backfired on the good senator.

Netroots bloggers are criticizing Sen. Clinton of “blowing” an appalling $36 million to win what was always a shoo-in campaign, and many longtime supporters and fundraisers are criticizing campaign aides for a “lack of discipline” in spending.

All of this broohaha blows huge holes through the pro-Hillary arguments longtime advisors like James Carville and Mark Penn have been making in private and in the press for the past year and a half. One—that Hillary isn’t as divisive as she is stereotyped, and could win a large segment of moderates and independents—is immediately cast into doubt by the huge amount of money she spent in New York this cycle to create her landslide victory. It was smart strategy; Among other things, her 2006 reelection campaign created a convenient excuse to keep Hillary in New York and out of early primary and caucus states like Iowa and New Hampshire, continuing the aura of mystery that has surrounded Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 intentions for some time. (Don’t worry about her primary prospects too much, though—Bill was out there instead, doing more than a big of glad-handing in Cedar Rapids and Manchester—a worthy surrogate to be sure.) But the result—spending an absurd amount of money that could have been spent in battleground states like Tennessee—may come ‘round later to kick good ol’ Hil in the butt, should she ultimately decide to run.

But the other consequence of Sen. Clinton’s heavy-handed spending habits may be more problematic in the short term. One of Sen. Clinton’s strongest advantages among the field of possible Democratic contenders is her unsurpassed ability to fundraise and tap donor databases worth millions more than any other candidate. But Hil’s spending—which included $27,000 for valet parking and $13,000 worth of flowers—left her with a much-depleted war chest. As of mid-October (the last time her campaign filed a disclosure with the FEC), she had about $14 million CoH, far less than the $20-30 million her advisers predicted she’d have post-election. This puts the esteemed senator in the same ballpark as fellow '08 hopefuls John Kerry ($13.8 million as of 9/30) and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana ($10.6 million).

Whether her 2006 spending will become an issue in the '08 primaries is certainly a big question (it's easy to forget that the Iowa caucuses are actually more than a year away), but it certainly warrants asking the question we've all been thinking anyway: How electable is Hillary Clinton?