Just two days after we announce the upcoming competition for next year’s Grande Conservative Blogress Diva, Captain Ed titles his post on Hillary’s falling fortunes, The Decline Of The Democrats’ Diva. Perhaps it’s diva week her on GayPatriot. Just four days ago, I noted that columnist Robert Novak described California Congresswoman Jane Harman and House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi’s “rival diva.”
In his post, Captain Ed disputes the notion of Hillary’s inevitably by referencing a New York Times piece showing that she has “dissipated” most of the “massive war chest” she accumulated for his recent Senate campaign in the Empire State. Not only that. The Captain notes that while spending twice what her colleague Charles Schumer did two years previously, she did not equal her fellow Democrat’s margin of victory.
While I wouldn’t yet count Hillary out of the contest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, I agree that she is going to have a much tougher path that many assume. While she has been heralded as the frontrunner for as long as people have talked about that race, she has never in a poll (of a multi-candidate Democratic field) climbed over 50%, indeed never getting over 40%. Indeed, a recent poll showed her only at 33%. I had thought this showed a steady drift downward from her previous position, but a review of the polls at PollingReport.com shows that over the past four years, in a multi-candidate field, she has polled between 25 and 40%.
While she always leads the field, given her high name ID, her largely favorable press and the popularity of her husband in Democratic circles, these numbers surely indicate that Democrats are not yet sold on the notion of Hillary as their 2008 nominee.
A few years back, a Democratic friend of mine dismissed the notion that Hillary would ever be his party’s nominee, suggestion her nomination would be a “Republican Wet Dream.” Mrs. Clinton continues to have high negatives, with one January poll showing that “51 percent of Americans said they would definitely vote against her if she ran for president. The same poll showed that only “16 percent of Americans pledged to definitely support a Clinton presidential run, while another 32 percent said they would consider it.”
I think that Hillary’s greatest problem is that she is an incredibly polarizing figure and that after sixteen years of polarizing presidents, the American people might look to a candidate better able to bring the nation together.
In subsequent posts, I expect to address her shortcomings (as well as her strengths) at greater length, but for now (below the “jump”), let me summarize the problems I think she faces in a presidential contest.
• Absence of warmth/Stature: Unlike her husband, she doesn’t come across as a leader nor radiate his charisma. Peggy Noonan noted that when “she speaks to a sympathetic audience eager for red meat her voice becomes high, harsh, grating–the first wife that your nice husband fled.”
• Her charismatic husband overshadows her: If you ever see the two of them on stage together, you’ll notice that his is the more commanding presence. Your focus on him rather than her. Contrast Hillary and her husband to one of the most successful female politicians of the last century, Margaret Thatcher, and hers. When Margaret stood with Denis, you find yourself focusing on her not him.
• Despite her husband’s charisma and political savvy, he never mustered more than 50% of the vote: In 1996 with a strong economy, a brilliant campaign and opponent with a mediocre campaign, he only mustered 49% of the popular vote. This suggests that despite his popularity in Democratic circles, Bill Clinton never completely won over the American people. If he couldn’t get a majority, what does that say about his less charismatic wife’s potential?
• Bush/Clinton fatigue: After twenty years of a president named Bush or Clinton, people want a change. While Jeb Bush has compiled one of the best records of any Republican governor, he’s not running, probably because he realizes that his last name will hurt him more than his record would help him.
• Clinton scandals: Whether or not old media reminds voters of these when she announces, the new media will. This will only serve to increase the Clinton portion of the fatigue mentioned above.
• Absence of Executive Experience Commenting on the way she ran health care reform in 1993-94, liberal economist Brad Long wrote that Mrs. Clinton “has already flopped as a senior administrative official in the executive branch. . . . there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president” (Via Best of the Web).
You will note that many of Mrs. Clinton’s disadvantages relate to her relationship with her husband and his weaknesses. Perhaps, you will say that is unfair. And perhaps it is. But, ask yourselves this, given his political gifts as her own public persona, had she not been married to him would she have been elected Senator from the Empire State and would she be leading the field for her party’s 2008 presidential nomination?