President Bush’s approval ratings have hurt Republican recruitment of Senate candidates against vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Apparently, the GOP’s obsession with Hillary Clinton, whose nomination as the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate they should pray for nightly, has hurt too. As Robert Novak notes in his column today, potentially strong Republican candidates are deciding to pass on the 2006 elections
I don’t know if I’ve weighed in on Hillary yet, and I just want to say: Don’t run! Fool!
I like Hillary. She seems like a nice enough person, a devoted wife, and even her Republican constituents in New York have come to like her. I think she has a genuine interest in politics as an exercise and in policy as a way of improving lives. If men were angels, that would all put her in the top tier for the 2008 election.
The problem is, a whole lot of people hate her. Other people like her well enough. Relatively few people love her (Insert Bill Clinton infidelity joke 108b).
That’s bad. Most people in American know her, and many have an opinion. Her negatives are huge, I think someone said around 40% of people asked about her said they didn’t like her. That’s a number that’s hard to turn around.
She could beat Sam Brownback, but he’s too loony. Nationwide, I could beat him, but I’m not 35 yet. If he’s the nominee, Godspeed, Hillary. But no way the Republican party is quite that stupid. They’ll nominate some Southeastern governor, maybe a senator without too much baggage, and he’ll be honey-tongued and kiss babies and the millions of people who never heard of him will think well of him.
Meanwhile, Hillary will be refighting Whitewater (despite the fact that Ken Starr seems to have exonerated her), as well as trying to convince people that she didn’t botch (or learned the lesson after botching) her first policy brief, national health insurance. And what will be the core of any Democratic presidential campaign? National health insurance. Does she have any credibility on that issue? If you’ve forgotten Harry and Louise, prepare to be reintroduced.
Both candidates will see their negatives rise, but Hillary will have to work much harder to counteract that move, while our hypothetical Southern governor will be content to raise his positives, because he has a bigger chunk of people who come in undecided. Hillary has to win a disproportionate share of the people who don’t yet hate her. If even 10% of undecideds come around to disliking her, it’s over.
That’s why Hillary shouldn’t run.
However, that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t do a headfake toward running. Make all the Republicans sit out the midterm election, crowd the Republican field for 2008, force the Republicans to attack each other in their zeal to be the one waltzing on to beat the great conservative bugaboo.
Then let Bill Richardson or John Edwards roll past the whoever emerges, bruised and battered, from that scrum.