July 2, 2006


The Power of Hillary (James Carville and Mark J. Penn, July 2, 2006, Washington Post)

We don't know if Hillary is going to run for president, but as advisers who have worked on the only two successful Democratic presidential campaigns in the past couple of decades, we know that if she does run, she can win that race, too.

Why? First, because strength matters. Our problems as a party are less ideological than anatomical: Our candidates have been made to look like they have no backbone. But the latest Post-ABC News poll shows that 68 percent of Americans describe Hillary Clinton as a strong leader. That comes after years of her being in the national crossfire. People know that Hillary has strong convictions, even if they don't always agree with her. They also know that she's tough enough to handle the viciousness of a national campaign and the challenges of the presidency itself.

One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated.

The woman who gave the War Room its name knows how tough politics at the presidential level can be. Adversaries spent $60 million against her in 2000, and she endured press scrutiny that would have wilted most candidates. She gave as good as she got, and she triumphed.

For those who think that the politics of personal destruction might be rekindled against Hillary or her husband, we can only remind people how consistently that approach has backfired in the past. Bill Clinton would certainly be a huge asset if Hillary decided to run.

In fact, Hillary is the only nationally known Democrat (other than her husband) who has weathered the Republican assaults and emerged with a favorable rating above 50 percent (54 percent positive in the latest Post-ABC poll).

Yes, she has a 42 percent negative rating, as do other nationally known Democrats. All the nationally un known Democrats would likely wind up with high negative ratings, too, once they'd been through the Republican attack machine.

The difference with Hillary is the intensity of her support.

Pundits and fundraisers and activists may be unsure of whether Hillary can get elected president, but Democratic voters, particularly Democratic women and even independent women, are thrilled with the idea.

Democrats have been seduced by their own myth that they lose elections because of personal attacks, rather than ideas. But Bill Clinton thrived amidst the strongest attack because he ran as a conservative. Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry lost entirely winnable races because they ran as Northeastern liberals (only Al Gore is smart enough to emphasize an Ivy League pedigree over representing TN). Ms Clinton has not yet demonstrated the required willingness to run to the Right and may not have the credibility with the Left -- blacks in particular -- that allowed her husband to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 2, 2006 9:30 AM

That would be the strength of her positions, not convictions.

Posted by: Rick T. at July 2, 2006 10:25 AM

Talk about gall. Carville presumes to lecture us when every candidate, at home and abroad, who paid for his “strategizing” was defeated. I doubt this salient fact will be mentioned in any msm review.

As for Hillary, only women already among the moonbats will vote for her as they would for any liberal candidate. Normal (unpolitical junkie) women will take one look at her and be reminded of the miss-know-it-alls they endured from their school days and the strident mother-knows-best bosses in their workplaces and avoid her like the plague.

I know she won in New York, but thank God the rest of the country is quite a bit smarter. We may have the best pizza, but we have the worst voters.

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 10:26 AM

One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated.

Is that so? Wonder if Ken Starr or Kathleen Willey or Monica Lewinsky would agree with that assessment.

Posted by: Mike Morley at July 2, 2006 10:31 AM

Would someone give me the Leftist definiton of "swiftboating"? It seems to be a word that they just assume belongs in the dictionary next to their other recent contribution to the lexicon: "borking". I know it's not : "a campaign to publicly correct and refute long standing lies told by a politician", because that would be an accurate, truthful protrayal of what happened.

... but we have the worst voters.

You need to get out more and visit places like Seattle. Our stupid voters can beat your stupid voters any day, and ous no longer even have to leave home to prove it.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 2, 2006 12:31 PM

Could it also be that the Clintons come off as clever and slick rather than crazy and delusional? You can accuse the two of them of many things, but being out of touch of reality isn't one of them.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 2, 2006 12:37 PM

James may be too clever by half here with the line about never Swift Boating anyone. While the myriad of examples of that happening to folks on the right will cause few if any Democratic primary voters to lose a moments' sleep, the left's anger with Hillary at this point is to the level that they're certainly willing to believe the Clinton's have done it in the past, and would do it to their favored candidate(s) in the 2008 presidential election.

As miniscule as the Kos/DU/Atrios types have been in winning elections against Republicans, they do have more clout when it's just Democrat vs. Democrat in the primaries. Few will remember this op-ed come January '08, and the people Carvelle was targeting with this op-ed are likely Hillary supporters already, even if they have their own misgivings. So there's no sense in Carville poking a stick into the left's hornets nests and shaking it around if he doesn't have to, since those types can do to Hillary what the left was hoping McCain would do to Bush between 1999 and this past spring.

Posted by: John at July 2, 2006 12:49 PM

Raoul, voter per voter, you may be right, but we have so many more of them, it adds up to triple the stupidity -- Population: New York State 19,254,630; Washington State 6,287,759.

s/on. By swiftboating, the left means a group of distinguished citizens using their own time, treasure and energy who have banded together to refute the lies of their former comrade in arms who has inexplicably become a candidate for the office of president of the United States. s/off In reality the left means the exact opposite of the truth. Not unlike all their other cherished beliefs.

Oddly enough, although we've been to most of the U.S., Mexico and Canada, we've never been to the northwest corner of our world. Still on the agenda is a visit to your part of the country and Vancouver and maybe even up through Alaska. Perhaps next summer.

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 6:04 PM

Raoul, voter per voter, you may be right, but we have so many more of them, it adds up to triple the stupidity -- Population: New York State 19,254,630; Washington State 6,287,759.

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 6:06 PM

Love that "gave as good as she got" line. When Rick Lazio came close to her to ask a question she acted as if he were going to attack her and then talked about how he was being mean by attacking her. She got a lot of mileage out of that one. The woman is trying to play like a strong leader and then also use her femininity.

I am waiting for her to explain why she was the only NY legislator in DC who was not able to make time to see the firemen and policemen who testified after 9/11. Even Chuckie made time for them but Hillary was too busy - she was working on her book at the time - to see the men. That must have given them a real good sense of what she thought of them at the time. She is, in my opinion, lower than dirt!!

Posted by: dick at July 2, 2006 11:47 PM

Carville is attempting to neutralize her greatest weakness, as attested by dick - she has achieved prominence by alternating between wifeliness (for lack of a better word) and toughness. But she can't keep doing it now, because Bill isn't running. And she doesn't have his "aw, shucks" charm to cover up a multitude of sins.

She will be attacked in the primaries like never before. The party is going to rip itself up in trying to decide whether to nominate her, and then, if she wins, she gets to go through it all again.

Carville's piece is a marker. But a lot of Democrats aren't going to like the loyalty test. Bill avoided criticism from the left during his tenure, primarily because after 1994, he was all the Dems had. Hillary won't have that luxury. She is clearly the strongest candidate, but Gore and Edwards (and the Cabana Boy) are going to savage her. And Carville knows it. She got a pass in 2000. Not this time.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 3, 2006 12:53 AM

...Gore and Edwards (and the Cabana Boy) are going to savage her.

Ah, yes, the Three Blind Mice.

For various reasons, none of them have any shot whatsoever of becoming the '08 Dem candidate.
Should any of them choose to run, it'll be strictly for vanity, or to promote another project.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at July 3, 2006 2:35 AM