In my column this week, I discuss Hillary Clinton's status as the very early frontrunner for the presidential nomination. She's been here before.

From early 2005 until the end of 2007, she dominated the field in Democrats' preference. It wasn't until early 2008 that Barack Obama caught up and defeated her, and eventually won the nomination and the presidency.

The Clinton lead, measured by the Gallup poll, was awesome; in early February of 2005, she was the choice of 40 percent of Democratic-leaning voters, ahead of both men who'd just run in the national election, John Kerry and John Edwards. They trailed with 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

She maintained and increased that lead. A year later, she was almost 25 points ahead of any other possible candidate. 

It wasn't until the end of 2006 that Gallup even included Obama in the horse-race question. With one exception, probably an aberration, over the next year, he ran well behind Clinton. In early November 2007, a year before the general election, Clinton was preferred by 43 percent of likely Democratic voters, compared with 18 percent for Obama and 15 percent for Edwards. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden, both influential senators, barely registered with 1 percent.

Once Obama, the junior Illinois senator, upset the former first lady in the Iowa caucuses in early January 2008, he immediately pulled even with her in the polls; they remained close for months until Obama pulled ahead on the way to the nomination.

(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. E-mail him at ahunt1@bloomberg.net or follow him on Twitter.)