Sunday, July 02, 2006

Defending Hillary

In The Washington Post today, key Clintonites James Carville and Mark Penn respond to all the Hillary-bashing out there, from Democrats and Republicans alike, and argue that she can, in fact, win in '08.

Their argument contains these elements: Americans overwhelmingly describe Hillary as "a strong leader". She has "strong convictions". Plus, "she's tough enough to handle the viciousness of a national campaign and the challenges of the presidency itself". This is a crucial characteristic given the usual effectiveness of the Republican spin-and-smear machine. As Carville and Penn put it: "One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated." In other words, Hillary's no John Kerry. And she proved herself back in 2000, when the opposition "spent $60 million against her" and "she endured press scrutiny that would have wilted most candidates". Leading Democrats all face the obstacle of "high negative ratings, but "[t]he difference with Hillary is the intensity of her support".

And it gets better (in the view of these two key Clintonites): "Hillary is uniquely capable of getting... swing voters back to the Democratic column." Indeed:

Hillary's candidacy has the potential to reshape the electoral map for Democrats. Others argue they can add to John Kerry's 20 states and 252 electoral votes by adding Southern states, or Western or Midwestern, depending on their background. Hillary has the potential to mobilize people in every region of the country.

Certainly she could win the states John Kerry did. But with the pathbreaking possibility of this country's first female president, we could see an explosion of women voting -- and voting Democratic. States that were close in the past, from Arkansas to Colorado to Florida to Ohio, could well move to the Democratic column. It takes only one more state to win.

True enough (which is one reason why I've never thought Democrats were in such bad shape nationally), and I agree that "she is squarely in the mainstream of America" and that "she represents the kind of change the country is yearning for: a smart, strong leader."

I suppose I would describe myself as ambivalent about Hillary. If she wins the Democratic nomination, I will, of course, support her. But I'm not sure just how much I support her now. Certainly I wouldn't describe my support as "intense". At most, I admire and respect her. But who knows who will run? I prefer Gore and Edwards, at least right now, but neither is a declared candidate. And as for the other possibilities -- Warner, Richardson, Feingold, Kerry, Bayh, Biden, Vilsack, Clark -- well, I'm just taking a wait-and-see approach. They're all good men, but it's far too early to rank them in comparison to Hillary (except perhaps Kerry, whom I supported enthusiastically in '04 -- for more, see here and here).

All of which is to say that I'm keeping an open mind with respect to Hillary and her likely '08 candidacy. To me, she is neither villain nor saviour. Rather, she looks like a formidable candidate with a lot of baggage.

The key, for any Democratic candidate, will be to stand up to the Republican spin-and-smear machine, to articulate a vision of responsible leadership that will guide America through the challenges ahead, and, yes, to win at least one more state to tip the balance back towards the Democrats.

(Fore more, see Taylor Marsh, BooMan, Oliver Willis, and Jeralyn Merritt.)

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  • Stand up to the Republican spin-and-smear machine? Really,

    now as I recall it was Hillary and Bill that invented the term "scorched earth politics."

    Come on now, be serious,

    G. Langdale
    True American

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 AM  

  • In my opinion, it would be disaster for Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton, John Kerry or Al Gore in 2008. None would likely to
    appeal to critical swing voters.

    It's a real shame that John Edwards wasn't nominated in 2004. I think a Edwards-Gephardt ticket would have won.

    Edwards fits one important requirement - he has proven the ability to win election as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in the red state of North Carolina. The fact that he wasn't able to work a miracle and deliver his home state for a Northeastern liberal like Kerry should not be held against him.

    I like Edward's populist message and charismatic campaign style. I'd
    like to see Edwards move a little more to center on the divisive
    cultural issues such as abortion rights (oppose late term abortion), gun control (declare support the Second Amendment) and gay marriage-civil unions (tolerance toward gays, but no gay marriage). Edwards could use a slightly shorter haircut and some tougher rhetoric on national security issues.

    Of course, Edwards strong point is his message of economic populism.
    I share his concerns about poverty and the widening gap between the
    rich and poor. Edwards does need to devote more attention though to
    the vulnerabilities of America's middle and working class as a result of the economic policies of the last 25 years or so. Edwards must talk not only about our poor but how the American dream is slipping away from millions of middle class Americans as well.

    Among the leading probable contenders for the 2008 nomination,
    Edwards is definitely the best choice. The latest Iowa poll showed
    Edwards leading among that state's Democratic voters for the 2008

    I am also very impressed with Mark Warner and Evan Bayh as they can
    appeal to the center and have a proven track record also in winning
    red states.

    Evan Bayh is especially impressive as he served for ten years as
    Governor of Indiana. Bayh left the Governorship with high favorable
    ratings and has twice been elected to the U.S. Senate by nearly 2 to
    1 margins.

    There is no reason to nominate a divisive figure like Hillary Clinton or recycle Al Gore or John Kerry. Let's pick a nominee who can appeal to the vital center.

    By Blogger RightDemocrat, at 7:47 PM  

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