December 4, 2007

Is The Gray Lady Bailing On Hillary?

The New York Times offers an unusually pessimistic appraisal of Hillary Clinton's effect on the 2008 down-ticket races. Carl Hulse reports that Congressional incumbents and candidates have begun to fear that her nomination will energize a dispirited opposition and could cost the Democrats the seats they gained in 2006. It's not exactly a new thought, but usually it gets expressed as Republican optimism (via Memeorandum):

Nancy Boyda, a Democrat who ran for Congress in this district last year, owed her upset victory partly to the popularity of the Democratic woman at the top of the ticket: Kathleen Sebelius, who won the governor’s seat. Now, with a tough re-election race at hand in 2008, Ms. Boyda faces the prospect that her electoral fate could be tied to another woman: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton is a long way from winning the Democratic presidential nomination, and over the last few weeks has struggled to hang on to the air of inevitability that she has been cultivating all year. But the possibility that she will be the nominee is already generating concern among some Democrats in Republican-leaning states and Congressional districts, who fear that sharing the ticket with her could subject them to attack as too liberal and out of step with the values of their constituents. ...

Ms. Boyda is one of a group of House Democrats — including fellow freshmen like Zack Space of Ohio, Nick Lampson of Texas, Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Brad Ellsworth of Indiana — who will be battling for re-election in Republican territory.

In the Senate, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana faces a similar challenge, and in an indication of what she and other Democrats, including Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, could face, Republicans unveiled a Web commercial on Monday linking Ms. Landrieu directly to Mrs. Clinton. In the advertisement, Mrs. Clinton’s face morphs into Ms. Landrieu’s, and they are described as “two peas in a pod.”

The irony of the Times worrying over Clinton's liberalism should not be lost on readers. Clinton has run as the moderate in this race, facing off against Barack Obama's ambigiuous liberalism and John Edwards' strident populism. She remains, unfortunately, the best Democratic candidate on the war, which gives voters a sense of how far the Democratic Party has slipped.

Candidates tied to Clinton don't worry about her liberalism, they worry about her (other) negatives, not least of which is her incompetence on the campaign trail. Clinton has never had to campaign in a contested race before now. She had no primary competition for her first run at the Senate, and faced walkovers in both races. Hillary now has proven herself the antithesis of her husband, perhaps one of the best natural politicians in the last generation. She has become so desperate that her official website now criticizes her toughest opponent for essays he wrote in kindergarten and the third grade.

What serious candidate wants to get associated with that kind of campaign?

The Democrats have awoken from a year-long fog to find themselves with a candidate who inspires more revulsion than attraction, and one who falls apart under pressure. Hillary has them rattled even more than she has been rattled herself since she fumbled the illegal immigrant drivers license question at the debate a month ago. They don't have many options now, and they include only a pair of one-term Senators who have also proven that they can't campaign well at all. The promise of a walkover in 2008 has evaporated, and now the Democrats wonder if they can win anything at all.


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