All About Hillary
For her supporters, Hillary represents all the good things about being a Democrat. This may be by association with the Clinton years, Bill Clinton being the reigning god of the Democratic pantheon (much like Reagan is for the Republicans.) Hillary’s early failures, especially on healthcare, of course, can be conveniently blamed on the Republicans and the “vast right-wing controversy.” A combination of nostalgia for the Clinton years and adoration for Bill Clinton, arguably, may be one of Hillary’s biggest assets going into the primaries. The idea of a female president is alluring to many supporters.*
Moving along from the positive end of the spectrum, there are Democrats who are lukewarm in their support for, or opposition to Hillary Clinton. In these cases, it’s often not her policies or positions, but that she doesn’t inspire them. It is fair to say that Hillary is not a natural orator in the Bill Clinton, or even the Obama mold. She comes across as being cold, rehearsed, and sometimes even wonkish. Many of those apathetic towards Hillary will, grudgingly or not, agree that she is intelligent and hardworking, but there’s no fire in the belly to motivate the voters or to prevent them from gravitating towards other Democrats.
For many conservative Democrats, men especially, it may simply be that she is a woman. Other conservatives believe that Hillary is a liberal in the same vein as Ted Kennedy, a caricature that has been reinforced time and time again by the Republicans.
For progressives, she is too conservative and hawkish. Clinton’s policy decisions whether as a presidential candidate or a senator are carefully plotted, triangulated, and for the most part geared towards the proverbial center of the political spectrum. Liberal activists criticize her centrist posturing, with some arguing that she is the most conservative Democrat running for the president. Clinton does especially poorly with some of the more liberal activists of the netroots who do not suffer DLC Democrats kindly.
This, of course, is a highly simplified description of Clinton’s audience in the Democratic primaries. The general election, if she were the eventual nominee, would bring with it many different issues. One such issue – electablitiy – is being used by both Edwards and Obama to handicap Clinton. The claim is that Clinton, as a polarizing figure, a favorite punching bag of the right, a northern liberal, a woman, or a combination of these factors, would not be electable across much of the country. While the merits of her fellow Democrats’ claims that they in turn would be more electable will be addressed at length in subsequent posts, it is indeed a concern that many Democrats share and one that Clinton will need to dispel if she wants to win the nomination.
Clinton’s first Senate campaign may be a good place to start when considering electability. New York is a reliably Democratic state and statewide office-holders can potentially afford to be not as popular in the more Republican upstate areas, but Clinton methodically and doggedly pursued skeptical voters in the upstate areas. One might even argue that she won many of them over or at least neutralized all but the most serious reservations about her candidacy.
Clinton ran strongly upstate en route to an 800,000-vote victory over GOP Rep. Rick Lazio. She did even better in 2006, carrying 58 of New York's 62 counties -- including 40 largely rural counties that Bush won -- en route to a 67 percent reelection victory. The upstate strategy is likely to be "repeated" on a nationwide scale with Clinton courting areas that have been hostile to Democrats. (Source)In the Senate she has used the same methodical approach to neutralize some of the lingering animosity towards her. She has reached across the aisle to work with Republican senators such as John McCain, and Orin Hatch, and even her most vehement critics begrudgingly admire her work ethic in the Senate.
Clinton, a Democrat senator for New York, rarely takes a step in public or a policy initiative without being surrounded by Republicans. It is disarming her opponents and helping to polish her image as a moderate with a realistic prospect of winning the White House.There are also polls showing that over time Clinton has managed to reduce some of the unfavorables that would have doomed her run for the White House. With the standard caveat about polls, especially ones this far out in the election season, numbers such as those included below do look favorable for Hillary.
Clinton spent last week in “baked Alaska”, which has been experiencing record high temperatures, to investigate one of the left’s favourite causes, global warming. Her travelling companions were three Republican senators: John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins.
Together they agreed, in the words of McCain, that there was “overwhelming scientific evidence” of climate change and that “human activities play a very large role”. All Clinton had to do was concur. It is as if they are “dating”, said one cynical television news anchor. (Source)
Iowa, SurveyUSA Oct. 21 2007
Clinton 48% Giuliani 43%
Clinton 56% Thompson 42%
Clinton 50% Romney 42%
Clinton 51% Huckabee 41%
Clinton 49% McCain 44%
Missouri, SurveyUSA Oct. 20 2007
Clinton 50% Giuliani 43%
Clinton 51% Thompson 42%
Clinton 50% Romney 41%
Clinton 51% Huckabee 40%
Clinton 48% McCain 45%
There are other poll numbers that suggest that Hillary would not run well in states like Oregon and Washington but the idea in using the numbers from Iowa and Missouri, both of which voted for Bush in 2004, is to question widely-accepted and treated-like-gospel analysis about her electoral vulnerability.
Clinton’s careful posturing and a well-run, disciplined campaign may be exactly what is needed to win a sure-to-be dirty campaign. Or various external factors such as Iraq, Bush’s unpopulararity, a Republican nominee that is not acceptable to social conservatives etc. may provide Clinton (or any other Democrat) all the fodder they need.
The question for Democrats voting in the primaries is whether they believe in Clinton’s incremental changes and compromise-seeking philosophy of governing or a more expansive reorganization of the government and its priorities as promised by some of her rivals. More importantly, one should consider which of those two styles is more likely to succeed in the quagmire that is Washington.
*Although (from limited anecdotal evidence) it seems that in the specific instance of Hillary Clinton, the idea of a female president is more attractive to male feminists than to many Democratic women. There are women, who usually vote for Democrats and who consider themselves liberal, that are turned off by Hillary. Some disapprove of her decision to stay with Bill Clinton after the public humiliation of the Lewinsky affair. Others dislike her personality and/or politics enough to not vote for her (in the primaries, at least), glass ceiling be damned.