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.