June 19, 2007

Hillary -- Inevitable?

The line on Hillary Clinton in this election cycle has her as an inevitability for the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite misgivings over her strong negatives, the Democrats have not seen any candidate of substance challenging her in the primaries. Her two closest announced challengers have a grand total of eight years' experience in national office combined, and Hillary has run an adept and disciplined campaign.

However, as Howard Kurtz points out, that still hasn't ended the questions about Hillary's negatives and the nagging feeling among some Democrats that they are heading for a fall:

That, at least, is the consensus view of media wizards, strategists, pollsters and other kibitzers, that HRC is a virtual lock for the nomination. An official with a rival campaign told me that Hillary has an 80 percent chance of being the party's candidate, and most neutral observers would probably go with a higher number.

So why is there such unease about her within the party?

The conventional explanations don't fully cut it. Yes, the former first lady carries a fair amount of baggage from the 1990s. Yes, there will be concern about alternating Bush-Clinton dynasties. Yes, there is that first-woman thing, given that only men have occupied the Oval Office. And Hillary's high negatives, which were 50 percent in a recent Gallup poll.

But I don't think any of that gets at the reservations that some Democrats have about the New York senator. The baggage has been endlessly publicized. Her gender attracts lots of women. Negatives can come down if the electorate warms up to a candidate over the course of a campaign. There is something else, hinted at in that "1984" video, that some people find off-putting.

As James Carville might say, it's the arrogance, stupid. It seems to infect everything she does. Kurtz notes a number of articles appearing in the media, including leftist The Nation, questioning the wisdom of nominating Hillary -- and not just because voters have tired of Clintons and Bushes. The Los Angeles Times reports on one Democratic in Kentucky who pledged to vote for the Republican nominee if Hillry wins the nomination. Lakshmi Choudry says that Hillary's run actually damages feminism, and that women should oppose her representation of the patriarchy.

The arrogance factor is nothing new. Newsweek recalls Hillary's boast about pursuing a career instead of "stay[ing] home to bake cookies and have teas," a rip on stay-at-home mothers that still resonates to this day. The Clintons, Newsweek argues, miscalculated when they attempted the two-for-one campaign in 1992, but that was not the real problem in that race. The problem was then and is now the very clear impression of Hillary Clinton as an arrogant and not terribly likable politician.

Does this make her less inevitable? Apparently not, as the polls have shown. The only potential candidate within reach would be Al Gore, who seems to be happier as global-warming prophet than as electoral politician. Besides, Hillary has control of the vast Clinton campaign machine, which Gore used in 2000 in a narrow loss. But it puts Hillary and the Democrats at a significant disadvantage in a general election -- and the Democrats know it, even if they don't have an alternative at this point.

The Republicans have an opportunity to pull off an upset in 2008 by nominating a candidate who puts her negatives in stark relief. At the moment, that does not appear to be a terribly difficult task.


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Comments (18)

Posted by RBMN | June 19, 2007 8:54 AM

Some days I look ahead at 2008, and all I see are bad political weather conditions, that may capsize the Republican ship. Good weather is when swing voters are on your side, but among those all-important swing voters, I see "moderate" women voting for a woman (Hillary pretending to be moderate,) and "moderate" Latino voters who come down on the Democrat side, because they didn't like the "tone" of the immigration debate on the Republican side. And we're also told, that some conservatives are so angry and disillusioned (with the RINOs in Congress,) that they'll just sit the congressional elections out, or go third party this time. I hope my weather forecast is wrong, but that's what I see right now and it's not good.

Posted by Labamigo | June 19, 2007 9:26 AM

Every GOP voter should have their fingers crossed that Hillary! gets the nomination.

The USA will not put her and Bill! back in the White House.

Posted by Cousin Dave | June 19, 2007 9:45 AM

Hillary's #1 problem, and it's a problem that she does not seem able to solve, is this: she presents an image of weakness. Her brittle reactions to criticism remind one of the small child who reacts to a challenge by running away, and then engages in name-calling from a safe distance. On important issues of the day, she comes across as indecisive. Is she for the war or against it? Seems to depend on who's asking. She appears incapable of standing up for, and defending her own positions; rather, she wants to pander to whatever audience is in front of her that day. Some of the pandering goes so far that she comes across as having a pathetic, pathological need for approval, such as in the Selma incident where she copped that horribly affected drawl.

Americans by and large want a President to defend the country's interests and present an image of leadership. That goal is often incompatible with having a need to be loved by absolutely everyone, and America knows it.

Posted by km | June 19, 2007 10:00 AM

We can't however, underestimate the power of proclivity of the GOP to shoot itself in the foot (well, I suppose by know they must be up to shooting themsleves in the ankles if not the knees).

Posted by Tom | June 19, 2007 10:03 AM

After Bush, it would take a miracle for the Republican party to win the Presidency again, and a Hillary candidacy might just be it.

I think the Democratic machine has figured this is her last best chance to run for the Presidency, and they're going to roll the dice and go for it.

Posted by daytrader | June 19, 2007 10:16 AM

Many dems just are scared to death that due to the Clinton scorched earth policies and no method is not to be used can be a minefield that will self destruct on them simply because the Lady and the Tramp dance to their own music and think that is more important than what all the little people think.

In essence they are looked at as loose cannons who lie each time their lips move.

In review, who could blame them.

Posted by onlineanalyst | June 19, 2007 10:23 AM

Oddly enough, I was on a road trip with three dyed-in-the-wool Democrats about a month ago. After listening to the typical (misinformed) Bush-bashing, I was interested in their discussion of their Democrat contenders.

The first point that they made was that their party tends to pick losers. They actually mocked Kerry and Gore, even though they are Gaia-worshippers, certain that the Republicans are dedicated to destroying Mother Earth.

What really grabbed by attention, though, is that to a person, these women did not like Hillary Clinton as a candidate. In their words, they "don't trust her". This is not the first time that I have heard such caution about the madame in the pantsuit.

Posted by GarandFan | June 19, 2007 10:33 AM

While we're talking about arrogance, don't discount The Goracle. He's waiting in the wings, to be summoned forth to heal the party of the faithful. He's using his GW groupies to keep him in the public eye. When it gets down to the wire and Hillary's negatives can't be overcome (especially if FRED is the competition), a whisper campaign to "draft" Al will magically appear.

Posted by reddog | June 19, 2007 10:58 AM

Nobody likes Hillary, not even Bill. I don't like her and the only non-democratic presidential candidate I ever voted for was Shirley Chisholm.

I'll vote for her though and so will most Americans, if the alternative is anyone who supports continuing the war in the Middle East.

It's a one issue race. Immigration, abortion, taxes, medical care, gay marriage, Social Security, issues of religion, none of them matter this time around.

It's Nixon in '68 all over again. Hillary doesn't even have to end the war and she probably won't. She just has to run against Bush's war. It's a disgusting state of affairs.

Posted by unclesmrgol | June 19, 2007 11:58 AM

I wish Condi were running.

Posted by Dennis Keating | June 19, 2007 1:22 PM

The arrogance factor is huge, but I don't know if it is enough to defeat her.

I also think that you might refer to Al Gore as a Global Warming "Prophet-eer". He is doing quite well financially by fostering a debate where only one side is allowed to speak.

Posted by Lew | June 19, 2007 2:25 PM

Remember the last "inevitable" candidate to appear on the scene? His name was Bob Dole and he had a resume that obligated every other Republican in the country to support his nomination. And he was going to show up "slick Willie" as a low-class tasteless fraud because he was a genuine war hero and from the Midwest and all that stuff. Yeah, right!

I think Hilary is the Democrat's version of Bob Dole, and if she runs against Rudy or Fred or even "Darlin' Johnnie", she gets beat like a cheap drum. And if you think being a woman is going to get her the votes of all those women voters, you haven't been paying attention to the women around your own life for very long, because there is no one so viciously unforgiving as a woman toward another woman. There are a lot of women who liken Hilary to the feeling of fingernails on a chalkboard, and couldn't stand the idea of putting her in the White House.

As a Republican activist, I'd love to run any number of candidates against her. That'd be a far easier prospect than some others I could think of.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | June 19, 2007 3:48 PM

Actually, Bob Dole was more of a sacrificial lamb than an inevitable candidate. In 1996, NO Republican would have beaten Bill.

As for Hill, she's got the mainstream media on her side. And since that same mainstream media almost got Jean-Claude Kerry elected in 2004, be VERY afraid.

Posted by patrick neid | June 19, 2007 5:08 PM

kurtz is simply stating what many of us have said these last two years that hillary was getting the nomination. all this chatter about other candidates is strictly news filler on cnn.

as to her prospects they are very good, not certain but very good. the numbers break in her favor. she will get 90% of the black, latino and jewish vote. that's, and i being conservative, is 20% of the electorate. she only needs 30.1% of the remaining white and other votes. with her universal health care program that she will be unveiling by spring her candidacy will be very difficult to beat. as to why the dems will get in bed with her---by 2008 they will had the white house only 12 of the last 40 years. in public they will claim to disavow her but behind the curtain it will be hillary all the way.

as usual it will be a nail biter.........

Posted by Project Vote Smart | June 19, 2007 5:21 PM

For more information on Senator Hillary Clinton or other Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential election please visit http://www.votesmart.org/election_president_search.php?type=party or call our hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

Posted by Alex S | June 19, 2007 5:25 PM

Reading the 'peanuts' comic recently, I thought this one:
http://www.snoopy.com/comics/peanuts/archive/peanuts-20070609.html was appropriate for Hillary. It was from 1960, so perhaps she was influenced by it while growing up ...

Posted by Monkei | June 19, 2007 7:12 PM

I wish Condi were running.

Me too, she would be the GOP candidate easiest to beat, just play her mushroom cloud speech over and over and over again. People have no desire to put anyone back in office who is part of this 25% approval presidency.

Hillary and Bill back in the white house ... while it sounds bad to those on here who still support GWB, to most people, indepdents and democrats, it is an easy sell ... especially over any GOP candidate who is going to stand tall with GWB!

Side question? Will GWB be invited to speak at the GOP national convention?

Posted by rosignol | June 19, 2007 11:07 PM

What really grabbed by attention, though, is that to a person, these women did not like Hillary Clinton as a candidate. In their words, they "don't trust her". This is not the first time that I have heard such caution about the madame in the pantsuit.

I'm hearing the same thing from my mom (it pays to ask the older generation questions, they have more experience and perspective than you do). She claims there is a consensus on Hillary among her female friends- they're not voting for her, and they're not giving her money.

The reason why is Monica- (paraphrasing secondhand info, here). These women would have divorced a man who did that to them (and some of them have). By staying with Bill, Hillary has gained access to the Ultimate Rolodex and best campaigner of her generation... but has lost the respect of many, many women, and people don't vote for people they don't respect.

Men are disinclined to vote for Hillary for reasons no man needs to state. I forsee many many Democrats staying home if she is elected, and many many Republicans doing whatever it takes to get to the polls.

Hillary may be the inevitable candidate, but she is far from being an inevitable President.