Conservatives Suddenly Love Hillary Clinton

Conservatives seem very eager for Hillary Clinton to get back on the campaign trial, but it's not going to happen.

John Fund is the latest person on the right to float the idea that Hillary Clinton should seek higher office:

As President Obama sinks in the polls, Democrats and liberal pundits inevitably are searching for a scapegoat. The most likely victim appears to be gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden, who has become the focus of speculation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just might replace him on the 2012 Democratic ticket.

Former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, his state’s first African-American governor, touched off the controversy. Writing at last week, Mr. Wilder argued that Mr. Biden’s tenure has been undistinguished and chock full of “too many YouTube moments.” He charged that Mr. Biden “has continued to undermine what little confidence the public may have had in him.”

By way of contrast, Mr. Wilder says that Hillary Clinton has excelled in her role. “Clinton has been nothing but a team player who has earned good marks since being asked to serve as secretary of state.” Having Mrs. Clinton join the 2012 ticket, he said, would revive the Democratic Party and reestablish the party’s working-class voters who found her appealing during the 2012 primaries against Mr. Obama.

There are just a couple problems with this hypothesis.

First of all, despite Fund’s description of Vice-President Biden as “gaffe-prone,” there’s no real indication that he’s become a drag on the Administration’s popularity. The most recent Gallup poll puts Biden’s approval rating at 43%. While that’s lower than it was during the campaign, it is most likely a reflection of the Administration’s overall approval rating than it is something specific about Biden. Absent evidence that he’s harming the ticket, or unless Biden himself decides he wants to step aside, the idea of Obama selecting a new running mate in 2012 is sheer fantasy. There were, after all, similar rumors about the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004. Nothing happened then, even though there were many Republicans whispering that Bush should select a new running mate who could be an heir apparent in 2008, and despite the fact that Cheney’s approval rating at the time was already below 25%. If Bush didn’t replace Cheney under those circumstances, there’s no realistic chance that Obama would do something different in 2012.

The conservative fantasies about Hillary don’t stop there, though. Ed Driscoll thinks she should aim higher:

Don’t do it, Hill! Take a tip from Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and Teddy Kennedy in 1980 and head for the top of the ticket!

This is an idea that seems to resurrect itself every couple months, both among conservatives who relish the prospect of a primary fight in the Democratic Party in 2012, and among political pundits who probably want to relive the 2008 Clinton-Obama fight, undoubtedly one of the most exciting Presidential contests we’ve seen in a long time. The prospect of it actually happening, however, seem rather slim.

First of all, Hillary herself has given absolutely no indication that she’s at all interested in running for President again, whether in 2012 or at some point thereafter. When she was asked about those ambitions last year, her response was rather emphatic:

This may not be surprising, given the timetable and the high probability that President Obama will run for reelection in 2012, but Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, flatly said today in a televised interview that she would not run again.

Asked by NBC’s Ann Curry whether, after how fiercely and competitively she had sought the Democratic nomination in 2008, she would run for president again, she responded with that hearty Hillary laugh we’ve all come to know, and said: “It never crosses my mind … “No no no — No. This is a great job. It is a 24/7 job and I’m looking forward to retirement at some point. “

Of course, if Clinton did harbor such ambitions this is exactly the response we would expect from her, and she’s repeated it a few times since then. Moreover, it’s worth noting that Clinton is still working on retiring the debt from her 2008 campaign, and that doesn’t include the millions of dollars in personal assets that she threw into the campaign during the final months when fundraising dried up. Given that, it seems unlikely that she’d be all that eager to jump back into the fray and take on an incumbent President in a primary.

Even if Hillary Clinton did still harbor Presidential ambitions, she’s smart enough to know history. Nobody who has challenged an incumbent President in a party primary race has actually succeeded in defeating them. Eugene McCarthy and, more importantly, Robert Kennedy and the pressures of the Vietnam War did succeed in persuading Lyndon Johnson not to run for re-election, but the Democratic Nomination in 1968 went to Johnson’s Vice-President, not one of the young anti-war upstarts. Ted Kennedy’s challenge to Jimmy Carter, meanwhile, came more than 1,000 delegates short of unseating an already unpopular President. Hillary knows this and it would likely influence any decision she’d make regarding 2012.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone run against President Obama on the Democratic side in 2012, but it’s more likely to be a Pat Buchanan-like challenger from the left who has no real chance of winning but could still embarrass the sitting President in a place like Iowa or New Hampshire. The name Dennis Kucinich comes to mind. However, the President remains immensely popular within the Democratic Party and, unless that changes drastically over the next year or so, the idea of a serious challenger like Hillary Clinton rising up to make a Don Quixote-like run against him is just fundamentally absurd.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Donna Mitchell says:

    I’m still a Hillary fan and will always be.  She would have been the first woman president to “KICK ASS AND TAKE NAMES”.  I think the USA made a mistake in not voting her into the office of PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  We will never know what she would have done for us.