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George Bush has failed as Commander-in-Chief, so now he’s trying for Commentator-in-Chief. He predicted in an interview that Hillary Clinton would win the Democratic nomination and then would lose to the Republican, whom he did not predict.

Let’s set aside whether this was just a ploy to energize discouraged Republicans (Bush certainly can’t energize them any other way) and examine his analysis. It went like this:

“She’s got a great national presence, and this is becoming a national primary.”

Now, he may be on to something there. CW (conventional wisdom) is that the key to winning the nomination is to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire and then ride the wave of media coverage to drown your opponents in endorsements, fundraising and inevitability.

That’s how John Edwards is playing the game on the Democratic side, as is Mitt Romney on the Republican side.

The CW goes back to Jimmy Carter’s upset showing in Iowa in 1976. And it has held – at least, some of the time, like for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. But not always. Witness early winners but eventual losers like George Bush in 1980, Gary Hart in 1984 and John McCain in 2000. And early stumblers who eventually won, like Bill Clinton in 1992.

Plus, 2008 will have an early de facto national primary, SuperDuper Tuesday Feb. 5 with New York, California and New Jersey voting, among other states. And Florida is moving its primary to January to get in on the action.

This could be the year that the early states lose their make-or-break clout. And Bush might actually turn out to be right about something.

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