January 24, 2006

Hillary Will Never Be the Presidential Nominee

Hatched by Dafydd

...Not in 2008, not ever.

[Special: note that my emphasis has changed; the main argument here is that Hillary won't be nominated because she is not particularly electable, due to her baggage, her position as a senator, and because she cannot rally the leftist base. Today, I emphasis the base part: she is not likely to be nominated even more directly because the base has steadily soured on her and the "co-presidency" with her husband.

[Everything here is still operative: Democrats have actually come to believe that progressives are more electable these days than moderates. But today, I would reverse the priority order, putting her conflict with the leftist base first.

[Without further comment, here we go, reposted from July 11, 2005, on Captain's Quarters. -- The Mgt.]

I absolutely believe, conventional wisdom notwithstanding, that Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham will never be the Democratic nominee for president. (She might not even be a candidate, if she thinks she's going to lose; but her ego may compel her to try, just as John Kerry's did.)

The reason is fairly simple: because she simply cannot win election, and she will be tainted by the Kerry Kurse. Bluntly put, senators are simply not elected president unless they have achieved a position closer to the idea of a chief executive of the country... such as a governorship or the vice presidency.

There have been only two exceptions since 1900: Warren Harding, and of course, John F. Kennedy. And at least in the case of the latter, the election was razor-thin, even against Richard Nixon, a man who was violently hated by half the country even as early as 1960 (due to his work on the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and to his outing of Helen Gahagan Douglas as a Red). Harding was the last convincing senatorial win, crushing the former governor of Ohio, James M. Cox, in 1920.

This is not an accident. A senator is simply one of a bunch of people (currently 100), not single-handedly responsible for "governing" any large governmental organization... and Americans, by and large, do not see the presidency as an entry-level job. Would it make sense for a Fortune-500 company to hire a CEO who had never even been a high-level manager?

But there is an even more basic reason senators tend not to get elected: by the very nature of the job, a senator is a deal-maker... that is, a compromiser. They do not decide, they debate; they do not govern, they negotiate, they cut deals, they sacrifice one principle for another.

Senators are not leaders; even the so-called leadership is not what most folks think of as leading: it's more like herding cats, or trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

A senator inevitably votes for a bill that is anathema to his constituents -- in exchange for a colleague's vote on a bill that the first senator's constituents want; and both senators pray nobody finds out until after re-election.

But during a presidential campaign, at least in recent years, every least controversial vote of a candidate when he was in the House or Senate is pored over, dissected, deconstructed, and vacuum-molded into an attack ad by his opponents, first in his own party's primaries, then in the general by the even more brutal nominee of the opposite party. You must remember... we saw this exact dynamic in both the 2000 and the 2004 elections: in 2000, Gore was able to rise above his Senate past by pointing to his eight-year stint (seems like eighty) as vice president. He nearly won!

But in 2004, JFK was utterly and irrevocably defined by his Senate career: a mediocre hack who grandstanded his way through the decades, lurching from one outrageous statement to another, and never actually running anything in his entire life... not even his own finances, since his fortune came from inheritance and then a pair of fortuitous marriages. The only things he ever did apart from legislative politics was a very brief stint as a prosecutor, and of course his even briefer stint as a Swift-Boat commander.

Aside from that last, everything I wrote above applies equally to Hillary Rodham... except, of course, that it isn't "decades" in her case but, by 2008, less than a single decade. Other than that, during which she has done nothing of any significance (also like Kerry), her only important jobs were as head of the Legal Services Corporation... and as Bill Clinton's wife.

Every position she obtain after that marriage was "inherited" from her husband, from her disasterous foray into socialized medicine (the Mussolini-esque "Task Force on National Health Care Reform") to her election as a senator from a state she had never lived in her life, procurred for her by her hubby's election team.

Amazingly, she managed, during this period, to rack up the highest negatives that any first lady has ever suffered... another reason she will never be the Democratic presidential nominee. Her nomination would be catastrophic for the party, as it would galvanize Republican voters against her like nothing before, eclipsing even 2004 -- and especially Republican women, who Hillary has scorned and dissed from Day-1. This at a time when the only way the Democrats can hope to win the presidency is if Republican voters are apathetic and fail to turn out; for Ken Mehlman has already proven that when both sides turn out heavy, the Republican wins.

It might be different if there were absolutely nobody to carry the banner of the Democratic Left. She might be nominated then, though she would still lose the general election. But that simply is not the case; there are any number of better-qualified liberals willing to run, starting right at the top with Howard the Dean. Despite his promise not to run if he were chosen as chairman of the DNC, there is actually no law against it. And he is a governor and a former presidential candidate with a proven base of support. Then there is also Gephardt, Biden, Gore, and possibly even Tom Daschle. Slightly more moderate Dems like Mark Warner will probably appeal to the crossover constituency that Hillary is comically trying to woo at the moment.

I believe that Hillary will end up being the forgotten women in 2008. Her borrowed cloak of power will be moth-ridden and threadbare, and she will be "just another senator," one of a hundred, and not a very powerful one at that.

And she will not be the Democratic nominee -- then or ever.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 24, 2006, at the time of 4:18 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Dafydd, you're probably right but I hope you're wrong. Anything that's a disaster for the Dimocratic party is good for the country and watching Hillary suffer through a losing campaign would be an absolute hoot.

As much as I admired JFK as a child -- I was 13 when he was shot and I remember exactly where I was when I got the news -- you forgot to mention the fact that he only became President due to voter fraud; in an honest election Nixon would have carried Chicago, Illinois, and the country.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2006 7:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: levi from queens

All means of analyzing presidential elections by the past and trends and the economy are weak because they never take into account the campaigning skill of the candidate. Bill Clinton and JFK(60) and W and RR won because they were superior campaigners to their opponents. Unfortunately, Hillary is an incandescently brilliant campaigner. I expect her to sweep the dems and to provide a really tough opponent to any Republican.

The above hissed in response by: levi from queens [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2006 8:57 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Hillary is an incandescently brilliant campaigner.

She is? Based on what?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2006 9:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: levi from queens

Based on her campaign for the NY senate seat. She walked in as a carpetbagger from a tarnished administration. She set out on a "listening campaign" which disarmed people. She figured out how to talk to upstaters such that she took upwards of 40% of their vote. She destroyed her opponent in the debate. The day I knew that we were stuck with her was when I saw an elderly Hispanic woman with a pushcart on the way to the el. The lady had an illegal food sales business. Every square inch of the cart was covered with Hillary stickers. NY is not America (thank God), but her ability to turn around people in the reddest parts of New York while retaining the blue sections with zeal was impressive.

That said, a Hillary presidency (while not to be desired) would be immeasurably superior to one from Kerry or Dean or a Kossite. She does know how to listen to the people (as did Bill), and this trait will limit any damage she would inflict. She also has supported the GWOT, notwithstanding the whiny back-biting.

The above hissed in response by: levi from queens [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2006 10:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Here's an alternative viewpoint:

She was parachuted into New York along with Bill Clinton's entire election team, who blanketed the state. She ran against a lox, Rick Lazio, who ran an absolutely dreadful campaign. He never would have been the candidate except that the real candidate, Rudy Giuliani, dropped out for personal reasons.

During her campaign, she was hermetically sealed away from news interviews, and Lazio turned out to be a terrible debater. Although I live in California, I was beside myself with frustration at his wretched campaign, which was actually as bad as California Republicans' campaigns, though I would not have thought that possible.

Nevertheless, she managed to win by less than half the margin (12%) that Gore won by the same year (25%), and even less than John Kerry's margin (17%) in 2004.

Wikipedia makes a big point that Hillary's margin was marginally better than Schumer's margin (10%) for his first Senate campaign in 1998; they fail to note that Schumer unseated three-term incumbent Al D'Amato, while Hillary was running for an open seat that had been held by the Democrats (by the beloved Daniel Patrick Moynihan) for the previous twenty-four years... which is hardly in the same league as Schumer's race.

By all objective criteria, Hillary Clinton is a mediocre campaigner who, in her only race, relied heavily upon her husband's election team -- which has since dispersed and will likely be working for her Democratic opponents. She did considerably worse than other Democrats did in the same state around the same time, and in fact no better than the senior senator, who had just knocked off a successful Republican incumbent.

She was able to defeat a terrible campaigner -- the replacement candidate -- in the third or fourth most liberal state in the United States (after Massachusetts and either Hawaii and/or California)... in a 9/10 world.

I don't see any of that as indication that she is an "incandescently brilliant campaigner;" in fact, she has never been tested.

Hillary was what I call an "anointed" candidate: the powers that be simply decreed that she would be the next senator, and everyone on the Left -- from the president on down -- moved heaven and earth to plant her there.

She will have no serious opposition in 2006, so she will sweep to reelection. But she will not have any of those angels and advantages in 2008, when she will be running against people who had to claw their way up the electoral ladder claw and fang and won't treat her with the deference to which she has become accustomed.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2006 10:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: levi from queens

You are leaving out that Rick Laszlo was lavishly funded by Republicans. While the left may have moved heaven and earth to elect her, the right moved heaven and earth to stop her. Peggy Noonan even wrote a book for the purpose of beating Hillary. Hillary walked into the state with significant negatives with the electorate and managed to materially dissipate those. If she has another 12% margin in 06, I will be proved wrong. I think she may have a 50% margin even with a 3rd party Cindy Sheehanoid candidate to her left.

Somehow, she gets credit for the successes of the Clinton administration but a pass on the failings. I will grant that some of President Clinton's ethical failings are not impputable to Hillary, but an awful lot of them (the Lincoln bedroom stuff, the dealings with the Chinese and Indonesians) should be laid at her feet. This has never been successfully done, and it is probably ineffective to try to do so now -- although if somebody will leak the independent counsel report on the IRS actions,, it might help.

The above hissed in response by: levi from queens [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 25, 2006 7:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


You are leaving out that Rick Laszlo was lavishly funded by Republicans.

So were Dan Lungren and Matt Fong here. If a candidate is a bad campaigner, all the money in the world won't make a difference.

I followed Hillary's campaign, and it wasn't bad; but it wasn't good, either. It was thoroughly mediocre, run of the mill.

  • She came in with "significant negatives," as you say; but she was up against a very bad campaigner, a replacement candidate (did she even have a primary challenge?)
  • She was running in a very liberal state (even Long Island and upstate "conservatives" are liberal compared to most parts of the country)
  • She had the help of an incredibly successful campaign team that was lent to her (she had nothing to do with picking them or building them up)... a team she will not have in 2008

She may very well win handily in her 2006 reelection; that again means nothing, because it's entirely dependent upon who runs against her. Once again, she appears to be lucking out and getting another pass. She may well win by more than 12%:

Chuck Schumer won by 10% in 1998 against Al D'Amato, but he buried Howard Mills in 2004, 71%-24%... do you think Schumer has any serious chance to be the 2008 Democratic nominee for president? This despite the fact that Schumer doesn't leave anywhere near the bad taste in the mouths of many Democrats as Hillary does -- and Schumer has a very long liberal track record as an elected official (winning elections), he has been totally in synch with the Democratic-Party mainstream his entire time in the House and Senate, and he has viciously attacked Bush and Bush's appointees, as the red-meat crowd demands -- none of which is true for Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham.

She is up against very big guns who have won very tough elections -- something she has never done -- and who see 2008 as their last chance... since if Hillary won, they wouldn't have another chance until 2016, by which time most would be too old to run: Joe Biden will be 74, John Kerry will be 74, Daschle will be 69, Gore will be 68; Evan Bayh is younger... he will only be 61; but Howard Dean will be 68. None of them thinks Hillary has earned the right to jump in line ahead of them... and none is going to be gallant and say "after you, Lady Hillary."

Now, if Hillary were to grab the nomination against such a tough field, that would make it far more credible to claim that she is "incandescently brilliant" as a campaigner. That still isn't solid proof; look at John Kerry in 2004: took the nomination because other candidates killed each other off, turned out to be a terrible campaigner.

"Incandescently brilliant campaigner" is an awfully tough standard to reach; but several recent presidents did so: Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon (he had to be to overcome his staggering negatives), Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman (see notation about Nixon), and of course the first campaign superstar of the twentieth century, FDR.

Note I don't include Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, Bush-41, Clinton, or Bush-43, all but one of whom were very good at campaigning -- but not brilliant. From what I have seen in her lone campaign, I would put Hillary somewhere between Ford and Carter as a campaigner.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 25, 2006 1:55 PM

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