Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Coming in 2008: Gore v. Clinton

That would be Al Gore vs. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. A lot of names are out there -- John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Mark Warner, Russ Feingold, and Wesley Clark, among others -- but at The New Republic Ryan Lizza argues that "Gore may be the only Democrat who can beat Hillary Clinton".

(Lizza's piece is available by subscription only. I'll quote it extensively here.)

Here's the problem: Hillary is a national figure who has recently staked out territory in the center, but "[i]n Democratic circles the conventional wisdom is that Hillary can't lose the nomination but can't win the general election". More, "every move Hillary makes to stamp out the electability meme -- tough talk on Iraq, moderate noise on abortion -- opens her up further to a challenge from the left in the primaries."

And that's where Gore comes in:

Gore is the only anti-Hillary candidate who can credibly attack her on both fronts. His early, vocal, and unwavering opposition to the war in Iraq has made him a hero to many Democrats. The Hollywood liberals over at Huffington Post as well as the university-town activists at Daily Kos and Moveon.org love Gore. If he ran, he would instantly become the favored candidate of the "netroots," the antiwar, anti-Bush crowd that championed Howard Dean and that will be a significant source of money and buzz in the run-up to 2008. The activists in the liberal blogosphere, more than any other opinion-making constituency in Democratic politics, revere Gore. They still wave the bloody flag of the 2000 recount. They still pump out bitter posts about how the mainstream media trashed Gore in 2000 yet gave Bush a free pass. They remember that Gore endorsed Dean in 2004 and they burst with pride at the fact that he chose Moveon.org as the forum for his most important speeches.

Of course, any antiwar candidate could criticize Hillary's vote for the war in Iraq. But the logic of the Gore candidacy is that, unlike other Democrats, he could attack Hillary as both out of step on the war and unelectable come November. If he runs for president he would be the only candidate in either party who instantly passes the post-9/11 threshold on national security issues. Hillary's credible case that as first lady she engaged in diplomacy and was treated abroad like a world leader would be dwarfed by Gore's eight-year record as vice president sitting on the National Security Council.

And Gore might be the only Democrat who can solve a vexing issue facing the party: How does a candidate establish a reputation for toughness on national security while simultaneously criticizing the war? Gore supported the Gulf War and, in most Clinton administration battles over the use of force, he took the more hawkish position. He is the party's only credible antiwar hawk.

Gore has other advantages as well. Having run for president or vice president four times, he has a strong national network of $2,000 check-writers. That network, added to the online donors he could tap, would make him the only candidate who could compete financially with Hillary.

Finally, Hillary may not be the ideal nominee to take advantage of the anti-Washington mood building in America. In presidential politics, candidates who run as credible outsiders have a remarkable record. One thing that the campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all have in common is that they successfully ran against Washington. If the current mood of disgust persists into 2008, running as an outsider may be essential. Gore can credibly run such a campaign. Hillary can't.

So what does Gore do?

The ideal situation may be for him to hang back for the next year and a half, let the field sort itself out and wait for Democrats to become bored with the pack of candidates trying to dethrone Hillary. That would allow him to enter the race with the moral and political authority of a reluctant draftee. Every primary season goes through such a period of boredom, a time when voters and pundits scour the country for fresh blood. That could be Gore's moment.

It's an intriguing scenario, but I'm not sure I buy it. I (enthusiastically) supported Gore in 2000 and I've generally always liked him. The right-leaning Supreme Court robbed him of the presidency, or at least of a recount for the presidency, and I think that he would have been a very good president these past 4+ years, but I suspect that his time in electoral politics has come and gone. I'm not sold on Hillary, and I'm eager for viable anti-(or at least non-)Hillary candidates to emerge, but would the Democrats really go back to 2000 in order to try to win in 2008?

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  • As I'm sure you know, Gore has stated publicly that he doesn't plan to run for president ever again. I agree with the sentiment that Hilary "can't lose the nomination but can't win the general election" but so much can happen between now and 2008 that could make her candidacy much more viable. We'll just have to wait and see.

    By Blogger franky, at 8:32 AM  

  • Anything, anything to keep Hillary Clinton out of the race. There is no way in hell that woman can win the general election and too much is at stake for us to lose in 2008. And honestly, franky, I can't see anything conceivable happening between now and 2008 to make her candidacy more viable outside the ring of her current supporters.

    We need to concentrate on winning and kicking the Repugs to the curb, not giving Hillary an ego-massage.

    By Blogger Susan, at 9:35 AM  

  • When I started to write this comment, I was going to dismiss the idea of Gore as a credible candidate. But the more I thought about it, the better he seems. I agree with Susan's comment about Hilary. I think she has too much baggage and not only about being too liberal. She isn't exactly best friends with the truth and I think her recent moves toward the center-which I agree with--seem too much like rank opportunism. (Although I think her "pragmatism" would probably make her a pretty good president.) And, if she runs, I guarantee that the GOP will circulate rumors about her being a lesbian. At least Gore actually has received votes for president, he can credibly criticize the war without the problem that Kerry had of having supported it (or being perceived as always being against force)and he has some cred on the right since Tipper's crusade against rock music. And his populism is likely to play better today than it did five years ago, in the same way that Nixon's conservatism was more popular in the late sixties than the early sixties. What I fear, however, is that he takes himself too seriously (always a problem with Democrats these days) and, being a darling of the left is likely to hurt him if someone like Michael Moore comes out strongly for him. The best thing for any Democrat would be for the left to attack him or her publicly but to vote for him or her.

    By Anonymous Marc Schneider, at 3:41 PM  

  • I also agree that Gore's time is past and Hillary wouldn't stand a chance against the republican's presidential candidate if she ran by herself. Yet, what has intrigued me lately is the possibility of a Hillary-Obama Duo. There has been much talk down here in D.C. about that option. I think Obama's charm would counter Hillary's bitchiness, it would invigorate the left-wing base, increasing her chances.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:08 PM  

  • >>but I suspect that his time in electoral politics has come and gone.<<

    Exactly where do you put forward some justification of that suspicion?

    >>but would the Democrats really go back to 2000 in order to try to win in 2008?<<

    How do we arrive at the conclusion that Gore would use this approach, should he choose to run in 2008? Every indication is that he has grown past the debacle/setback of 2000, and has emerged as his own visionary and potentially a "born-again-politician" in the future.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 PM  

  • You know,

    I am voting for former VP Al Gore in the 2008 Presidential Election.

    The article did justice, as do many others (do a "Gore 2008" search on google news.) I am not convinced that Hillary will even make a good candidate. Her whole rational for running is that the media is obsessed over her, which really began as soon as President Clinton left office. I bet we could trace back to some writer's OpEd that she wants to succeed her husband, and than it spun out of control.

    This is not to say that I don't like Hillary. I liker her record and personality a lot. I just don't follow the media's annointing her eight years before the election.

    Gore, on the other hand, has proven that he can win presidential elections, lead the country during peace and war (Iraq, ahem. . . see his STEADY statements), energize the American people (come on. don't give me that bull about his being "wooden". It seams that whatever the pundits say, we agree with. Look at some of his presidential campaign speeches and commercials. And anyways, the point is moot. Why do we want so much of a celebrity/rock star as President anyways, or someone we can "drink beer" with. What?)

    The former Vice President has my vote and encouragement to take his rightful place in history. It's too bad the same can't be said for his future predecessor, the incumbent.

    By Blogger Nicholas Smith, at 12:35 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:48 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:37 PM  

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