Republicans and Hillary Clinton

John Dickerson, Slate‘s chief political correspondent asks, “Are Republicans pretending Hillary Clinton’s a strong presidential candidate? Or do they really believe it?”

Republicans don’t vote in Democratic primaries, which is why it’s something of a surprise that they’ve already chosen the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee: Hillary Clinton. Karl Rove has declared that “anybody who thinks that she’s not going to be the candidate is kidding themselves.” Key GOP activists and fund-raisers are signing up with John McCain and telling his advisers they think he’s the only one who can beat her in a general election. Conservative John Podhoretz has skipped over the electoral process altogether and is ready to make Clinton president. In the newly released, Can She Be Stopped?, he argues that without an immediate programmatic effort to dismantle her, she will beat the Republican candidate in 2008.

Of course, letting your political opponent pick your party’s nominee is like letting your mother pick your fiance. They have no idea what you want, and their motives aren’t pure. It’s a conventional political trick for partisans to anoint the rival party leader they most hope to face. Republicans might well say she’ll be the nominee in the hopes of putting her on the Commander in Chief trajectory: overblown hype leading to a spectacular flameout. Conservative direct-mail vendors have a particular interest in touting her. She is so reviled in Republican circles that they can reduce their fund-raising appeals to a single word: Hillary. For other Republicans, she is a comforting object of scorn—with their party in such dire shape, railing about her is the one thing they can all agree upon. But so many rank-and-file Republicans I talk to say she is a strong candidate that I am beginning to believe it can’t possibly be manufactured sentiment.

There are good reasons why Republicans are taking her very seriously. Hillary seems to have genuinely impressed her Republican Senate colleagues, including McCain, with her careful diligence. In New York she has won over upstate conservatives and has become powerful enough that arch-conservative Rupert Murdoch is throwing a breakfast fund-raiser for her. “We think that she’s been effective on state issues and local issues here in New York,” he told reporters Wednesday. “She’s been an effective and good senator.”

There’s not much question that the GOP organizers both see Hillary Clinton as a fundraiser’s dream and a fierce competitor. She is the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination and will simply blow the doors off any fundraising records.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CC says:

    hillary is the odds on favorite for 2 reasons: 1) she can run with the big dogs when it comes to raising money. she and bill are genius at manipulating media platforms. they both carry the only star appeal in the party right now. if she chooses obama from illinois as her running mate, then it’s a star studded ticket. and then 2) who else have the dems got, really? other than bill richardson from new mexico i don’t see a viable candidate who can run as a moderate and get elected. the problem for the dems, though, is that they still believe they can pretend to be moderates for the 3 months leading up to the november election and not worry about what they’ve said, done or voted on in the last 3 years. as my favorite commentator is want to say, “i tiger is a tiger, and he always will be.”

  2. Actually, here in Alabama Rebuplicans CAN vote in Democratic primaries, and vice versa. You just can only vote in one primary in any particular year. That’s nice to people like me, who really don’t affiliate with any given party. It’s also nice in years like this, when that lunatic Roy Moore is running for Governor. It means that I can choose to vote in the Republican primary just to vote against him. Not that it’s likely to do much good – I’m willing to bet that he’ll at least win the nomination here in this state, unless a bunch of Democrats feel the same way I do.

    Anyway, I’m digressing. Alabama’s not the only state with “open primaries”, although not all states implement it the same. I know, for instance, that California and Louisiana both have their own odd takes on the open primary concept.

    Dickerson is right that, as a general rule, Republicans still don’t vote in Democratic primaries. But I’d be willing to bet that this year will see heavier than usual crossover in the states that allow it, for exactly the reason that I’m choosing one over the other this year. People are going to want the chance to vote against Hillary, etc.

    Still, I don’t know if it’ll be enough to accomplish their goals – especially since many crossover voters will be at cross purposes with each other.

  3. McGehee says:

    Actually, here in Alabama Rebuplicans CAN vote in Democratic primaries, and vice versa. You just can only vote in one primary in any particular year.

    Here in Georgia, the presidential primary is separate from other primaries, and I was tempted to vote in the Dem primary in March 2004, knowing I’d be able to request the Republican ballot when the “real” primaries came along that summer.

    In 2008, I’d be more inclined to stay on the GOP ballow to vote against McCain, than go Dem to vote either way on Hillary.

  4. McGehee says:

    Besides, I remember when we all had declared Howard Dean the Democrats’ 2004 nominee…

  5. LJD says:

    In NH, all one has to do is switch voter registration to Democrat before the primary, then switch back after. As a registered independent, you have to change your party affiliation to participate in any primaries. The polling staff make a table available for a voter to change affiliation before AND after voting.

    Hilary is certainly a polarizing figure, and she will likely find out that money isn’t everything. She will have to avoid making conflicting statements, but it seems that’s politics these days- trying to keep everyone happy.

    I thought the Democrats might have learned from the ‘who else have we got’ policy after the disatrous consequences of betting on Kerry. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the Republicans can break this trend either.

  6. legion says:

    I agree on Hilary. She’s _very_ polarizing, and while she may get solid Dem support, I don’t think she can pull any worthwhile support from the undecideds or disaffected Repubs to win. Her only chance would be if enough Repubs are unhappy enough with their own choice to stay home on election day.

    That said, she has certainly been trying to moderate her image the past few years – she’s savvy enough to know her weaknesses.

  7. See if this sounds familiar.

    “Vizzini: You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
    Man in Black: You’re trying to trick me into giving away something. It won’t work.

    I think we played this game in 2004 with Dean. Now is the GOP really wanting to face Hillary or are they hoping that saying they want to face Hillary will lead the dems to abandon her in 2008 like they did Dean in 2004?

    Personally I am amazed that the dems haven’t realized that Bill Clinton was just a Rovian sock puppet to enable the election of W. How else could he have gotten George elected? So Rove using Hillary as another sock puppet is entirely predictable. If you don’t believe me that Clinton was a sock puppet, how else do you explain the defeat of national health care when the argument for it was so strong, the 1994 take over by the republicans and the passage of welfare reform that violated every principle of the democratic party. The only slip up Rove made was Bill wouldn’t play his part in being impeached on trumped up charges. And what’s really amazing is that Bill remains a superstar to the dems who can push them where Rove wants with a wink and a grin.

    Of course, Rove really isn’t that original. He was just re-creating what Reagan’s handlers did with Carter. I mean, he even used a southern governor. And what is really amazing is the dems, despite all the evidence, haven’t clued to the fact that there really s no such thing as a white male liberal from the south. They are all just shill that the conservatives send to the dems as undercover agents.

  8. legion says:

    Wow, john. That’s…. impressive.

    Lots of people have highballed Rove’s importance to Republican political strength, but even those of us in the darkest, most vile, most America-hating wing of liberal anti-democracy would never have imagined that the last 14 years of US politics were the equivalent of a ‘dream sequence’.

    Of course, _you_ could be the one that’s hallucinating…
    But I’ll never tell.

  9. McGehee says:

    Legion, maybe that’s what Darth Rove wants you to think.

  10. Legion, McGhee,

    That’s the beauty of the Amerika Rove has created. I can speak clearly and openly about what he has done and what he will do. I won’t be punished for it because I won’t be believed.

    The only people who can clearly see his hand in action are protected from the Rovian mind rays. Now I am willing to sell you the plans for a device that has my personal guarantee to protect you from Rovian mind rays. If you use the device as directed, you will have my personal guarantee that no Rovian mind rays will be able to alter your mind. Of course, this is not cheap. The cost for the plans and one working copy of the device is $10,000,000 in US currency. I know that once I start selling this, that is when the Rovian minions will swoop down and stop what his mind rays can’t. But remember it has my guarantee. If found unsatisfactory, your money will be returned.

  11. abhcoide says:

    Forty-three male Presidents of the US and not one woman. It’s about time you elected one. It would send a positive message to the rest of the world.

  12. James Joyner says:

    abhcoide: What would be positive about it?

  13. McGehee says:

    The cost for the plans and one working copy of the device is $10,000,000 in US currency.

    I’ll mail you a check as soon as I get the money I’m supposed to be getting from … a friend. In Nigeria. 😉

  14. McGehee says:

    Forty-three male Presidents of the US and not one woman. It�s about time you elected one.

    I nominate Erica Chevillar.