Today, while driving through Hollywood, I saw my first “Hillary Clinton ’08” bumper sticker. When that car changed lanes, I smiled for the car in front of this one sported a “Viva, Bush!” bumper sticker. I gave a thumbs up to this Hispanic driver, delighted to know that despite our different backgrounds, we supported the president.
Last night, on Hannity & Colmes, former Clinton advisor Dick Morris said that Hillary has basically already sewn up the 2008 Democratic nomination and has a good chance to be elected president just under four years hence. A week ago, in his Best of the Web column, James Taranto made a similar comment:
the most likely next president of the United States is Hillary Clinton. We’re not saying the odds of a Clinton presidency are higher than 50%, just that they’re higher than for any other individual.
While I agree that the odds of Hillary becoming president are less than 50%, I still think (alas!) that she has a good shot of winning.
When she runs, however, she will be carrying a lot of baggage. In January, a federal court unsealed an indictment of David Rosen, the national finance director of her 2000 Senate campaign. Campaign finance scandals seem to follow both her and her husband when either runs for office. Dirty Harry notes that Unversity of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato has written what has now “been forgotten” about the Clintons’ “many controversies will be re-investigated and refreshed during the course of a long 2008 campaign.” Peggy Noonan, who back in 2000, wrote the excellent book, The Case Against Hillary Clinton, makes a similar observation: “many voters associate her with a time of scandal and bad behavior.”
It’s not just the scandals. While Taranto believes that Republican loathing of Mrs. Clinton give “her party’s Angry Left base a reason to look past her views, which they would otherwise find objectionably reasonable,” Sabato thinks that even those reasonable views would not help her overcome the public perception of her:
Despite her attempts to moderate, Senator Clinton is firmly fixed in the public’s mind as a Northeastern liberal from a deep blue state–rather reminiscent of another recent nominee from Massachusetts. Those Arkansas days are far behind her, and few in the Razorback State believe she could carry the only Southern state where it is plausible she might have a chance.
And I would add another element to Hillary’s difficulties in the 2008 general election–she doesn’t come across as a leader. Her husband spoke in velvet tones while her voice is often harsh and frequently screechy. Peggy once again, “When she speaks in a large hall she shouts and it is shrill; she sounds like some boomer wife from hell who’s unpacking the grocery bags and telling you that you forgot not just the mayo but the mustard.”
During last year’s presidential election, Senator John Kerry closed the gap in polls with President Bush by appearing presidential in the first debate. Hillary not only lacks the stature of many of her current Senate colleagues but also that of most of her would-be Republican presidential opponents. In her 2000 Senate bid, she was greatly helped by the fact that her opponent, Rick Lazio, looked like he had just graduated from high school. (In 2008, if John Edwards runs, he will not be running on the Republican ticket.)
Moreover, despite her moderation, she is not the natural a politician that her husband is. Just watch a video clip of both of them pressing the flesh. He delights in the moment, patting supporters on the back, putting his arm around them, looking into their eyes. He wants to be there, surrounded by the adoring crowd. By contrast, she seems wooden in crowds, mechanically shaking each hand, as if it were attached to a vote-producing machine and not an actual human being. She looks like someone who can’t wait for the experience to end. Her husband never wanted the campaign to end.
You can see a similar contrast between the current President Bush and his father. Bush (43) like his predecessor, appears friendly, relaxed in campaign settings. His father, like his successor’s wife, saw campaigning as an unfortunate part of a politician’s life.
Because of Clinton’s consummate political skills, he could finesse his political moderation. But, Peggy can see right through Hillary’s appeal to “red-state” voters:
Forget her prepared speeches, put aside her moderate statements on Iraq and abortion. This is how you know she’s running for president in 2008. Ten days ago a reporter interviewed her in the halls of the Senate (another kind of cloister) and asked if she planned to run for president. She did not say, “I’m too busy serving the people of New York to think about the future.” She did not say, “Oh, I already have a heckuva lot on my plate.” She said, “I have more than I can say grace over right now.”
I have more than I can say grace over right now. What a wonderfully premeditated ad lib for the Age of Red State Dominance. I suggested a few weeks ago that Mrs. Clinton was about to get very, very religious. But her words came across as pious and smarmy, like Tammy Faye with a law degree. Maybe she still thinks in stereotypes; maybe she thinks that’s what little Christian ladies talk like while they stay home baking cookies. Whatever, it was almost as good as her saying, “I’m running, is this not obvious to even the slowest of you?”
She comes across as pious as smarmy, not as smooth as her slick husband. You can see her trying too hard. She just doesn’t reassure many Americans — as did her husband.
And yet for all his political skills, her husband never won a popular vote majority.
That said, I don’t think it’s a certainty that a Republican would beat Hillary in 2008. To be sure, her poll numbers in the various match-ups never put her above 50%. And this for a candidate with near-unanimous name recognition. Most Americans have already made up their minds about her. There is little that she could do to change voters’ opinions.
But, my party could make her seem like the lesser of two evils if, in 2008, the GOP repeats the mistake of the election ten years prior (to that one). Back in 1998, in the wake of President Clinton’s admission that he had “misled” the American people about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Republicans thought that we could win seats in the House and Senate just by running against Clinton. While we held our own in the Senate, the GOP lost seats in the House–the first time in 64 year that a party out of power lost seats in a mid-term election. Taranto observes:
Republican loathing could well help her in the general election too. As we argued throughout last year’s campaign, partisan loathing for President Bush was a hindrance to Democrats. They mistook their emotions for facts, which made them overconfident. They thought running a totally negative campaign would be sufficient; it didn’t occur to them that doing so reflected badly on them, not on Bush. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee in 2008, Republicans run the risk of repeating these mistakes.
If Hillary runs in 2008, she will likely win the Democratic nomination. The only way the GOP can prevent the nightmare of a Hillary Clinton administration is to run a positive campaign against her. Most Americans already know why they don’t trust Hillary to lead the nation. In 2008, they will need to be reassured that the Republican nominee could do a better job. We must once again make a positive case to the American people why the GOP should continue to dominate American politics.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com