Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Can She Be Stopped?

They've got a new blog over at National Review online entitled "Can She Be Stopped?", dealing with, of course, the presumed and expected 2008 presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton. John Podhoretz, whose book "Can She Be Stopped?" (and one suspects that the title of the blog and the title of the book are not coincidental to one another) looks to be the primary contributor. I've enormous admiration for John, who's a good writer and (I think) a very smart guy, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the book. And this blog looks like it'll be good reading.

That said, there are a couple of things that I've got questions about, that have been put up there today. In an early post, John says:
I see no plausible scenario in which she is stopped by other Democrats. She's one of the two or three most famous people ever to run for president (Eisenhower and Grant being the only two others I can think of who were as or more famous than she).

I will, for the moment, concede the first point. I don't see a plausible scenario in which she doesn't win the nomination, but I've not looked at the situation closely. John has, of course, so his judgement on this is of far more value than mine. But the second issue - and I realize that this is nit-pickery - I've got some questions about. Certainly, I don't think that there was anyone between Grant and Eisenhower who ran for the office with a greater public awareness than HRC. But when Richard Nixon ran for the Presidency in 1968, he'd been a very public figure for more than 20 years. Likewise, I'm skeptical that HRC is really "more famous" now than Ronald Reagan was in 1978. Reagan had been a very public figure for almost 40 years. Knute Rockne, All-American was from 1940 and Kings Row from 1942. He was in visible positions from that time until his Presidency ended. In the early 70s, he appeared on The Carol Burnett Show, Sonny and Cher, The Tonight Show and the Dean Martin show. He spoke for Goldwater at the 1964 Republican Convention. He was elected Governor of California.

And he did this before the fragmentation of the media. Yes, HRC has got more air time, because there are three cable channels dedicated to covering news. But what percentage of the population is watching it? In the 1960s and 1970s, if you appeared on the network news, or the network variety shows, most of the population was watching - there weren't alternatives. The exposure from a single appearance in a 3-channel media environment is radically different than 100 exposures on a cable-news channel in a 100-channel, or 500-channel environment. Is Hillary Clinton "more famous" today than Ronald Reagan was in 1978? I doubt it...

And that brings up what, to my mind, is a bigger point. I don't think that it makes sense to speak about her as being the "most famous" as if that guarantees success. I have thought, and continue to think, that she's a terrible candidate, at least from a general election point-of-view. Yes, if she's the Democratic candidate, she'll have the complete "care and protection" of the mainstream media. (That differs from any other potential Democratic candidate how, exactly?) But the fact is, she's famous, but not likeable. She's cold, she's screechy - people are not going to want her in their houses every night. The fact is, the Democrats could not possibly find a candidate who starts out with higher negatives than Hillary. There isn't one. She's carrying all of Bill's baggage, and she doesn't have his likeability to take the edges off. Yes, she's been elected statewide in New York. New York is one of the most liberal states in the country, and she underperformed Al Gore by 5 points in 2000. I'm curious to see what happens this fall, but I'll be hesitant to read much into it.

I think she starts out with no chance at Republican men or men who lean Republican. I think that she can't get women who lean Republican. I think she alienates conservative Democrats, particularly men. I just think that she's really not a good candidate in a general election, and, if there is a plausible scenario by which she's denied the nomination, it'll be based on her (perceived or otherwise) lack-of-electability in the general election, much the same way that Howard Dean imploded.

Technorati tags: Jpod, CanSheBeStopped, NRO, Hillary



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