We’ve heard a lot about why Hillary Clinton will be a strong candidate in 2008. In fact, there are whole books on the subject.
However, Hillary Clinton is actually a much weaker candidate than many people seem to believe. Here’s a short, but sweet primer that may help explain why that is the case:
1. Likeability and Charisma
If you look back at the last eight presidential elections, at least, the more likeable candidate has won every time. That’s unfortunate for Hillary because unlike her slick, gregarious husband, she does not have the gift of gab or a warm personality. If Hillary has to pass the old, “Gee, would I rather go to a ball game, grab some pizza, or get a beer with Hillary or the Republican candidate,” test, she’s going to be in a lot of trouble unless the person asking the question is wearing a tinfoil hat or is such a radical lefty that she has a “I (heart) abortion” bumper sticker on her car.
Hillary not only lacks charisma and likeability, she’s more gaffe prone than most people seem to realize. For example, back in March she suggested that the illegal immigration bill in the House, “would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself.”
Then there were her wacky comments about school vouchers back in February:
“First family that comes and says ‘I want to send my daughter to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic School’ and you say ‘Great, wonderful school, here’s your voucher,’” Clinton said. “Next parent that comes and says, ‘I want to send my child to the school of the Church of the White Supremacist …’ The parent says, ‘The way that I read Genesis, Cain was marked, therefore I believe in white supremacy. … You gave it to a Catholic parent, you gave it to a Jewish parent, under the Constitution, you can’t discriminate against me.’”
As an adoring, if somewhat puzzled, audience of Bronx activists looked on, Clinton added, “So what if the next parent comes and says, ‘I want to send my child to the School of the Jihad? … I won’t stand for it.”
Criminalizing Jesus? Cain and the Church of the White Supremacist? The School of Jihad? What?!? You put this woman in front of a camera for a year, in a presidential campaign, where every word the candidate utters is scrutinized like the Zapruder tape and she’ll give plenty of ammunition to her opponent.
3. She Can’t Win in the South
The only two Democratic candidates for the presidency who’ve won elections since Lyndon Johnson was in office have been two Southern governors, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Why were they able to win? Because unlike John Kerry or Al Gore, they were able to win southern states. Northern liberals like Hillary? They don’t do well in the South and Hillary will have a lot of difficulty reversing that trend. After all, not only is she a liberal, from a liberal state, with a liberal voting record, she apparently disliked living in the South so much that she moved to New York. Good luck connecting with the NASCAR crowd after that Hillary, ’cause you’re going to need it!
4. Hillary’s Base Problem
Here’s a little secret: a lot of liberals don’t really want Hillary as their candidate in 2008. Some of them don’t like her stance on the war. Others don’t like her close relationship with the DLC, which is perceived as being too moderate. There are even some liberals that are probably unhappy with her, as much as anything, because she has been treated like the “chosen one” for the Democrats since the 2004 election.
The result of this is that some of the more hardcore liberal activists aren’t thrilled with Hillary’s candidacy and they’re not shy about saying so. In fact, it has gotten so bad that the more time Democrats spend reading liberal bloggers, the cooler they get to Hillary. That’s not exactly the kind of reaction a candidate hopes for from people who should be some of her biggest supporters.
5. Hillary Will Increase Turnout—for the GOP
Remember how the Democrats turned out in droves in 2004 so they could vote against President Bush? Well, the same thing would happen on the Republican side if Hillary were the Democratic nominee. There are few words in the English language more terrifying to Republicans than, “President Hillary Clinton,” and it’s almost guaranteed that they will turn out in record numbers to make sure it never happens.
6. Hillary as Commander in Chief?
In general, the Democrats have serious credibility problems on national security and Hillary is not going to be the one to reverse that trend. Unlike candidates like John Kerry and Jimmy Carter, she doesn’t have a military background to fall back on. Moreover, her husband’s administration was lackadaisical about fighting terrorism and although Hillary did vote for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, she certainly hasn’t developed a reputation as a hawk, like say Zell Miller or Joe Lieberman. Although at this point, it’s hard to know exactly what the foreign policy landscape will look like in November of 2008, it’s unlikely to be tranquil and that will be a major strike against Hillary.
7. Her Polling Numbers Aren’t Very Good
Since Hillary has been the frontrunner on the Democratic side from the moment that John Kerry conceded, she has been the subject of a lot of 2008 related polls. Unfortunately for her, those numbers haven’t looked particularly good.
For example, In mid-May of this year, Rasmussen Reports had Hillary’s unfavorable rating among adults at 39%. Another mid-May poll, from the New York Times, had 34% of Americans viewing her favorably and 35% viewing her unfavorably.
Perhaps that sort of soft support explains the results of a January 2006, CNN/Gallup poll which found that, “By a margin of three to one, Americans say they would “definitely” vote against Hillary Clinton for president.”
Given that Hillary already has extremely high name recognition, these bad numbers don’t bode well for her chances to win the presidency.
Hillary is carrying around as much baggage as any of the other five candidates combined, starting with her philandering husband. In fact, there are so many controversies that have swirled around Bill and Hill than you can hardly list them all: Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broderick, Whitewater, selling the Lincoln bedroom, using the IRS against political enemies, selling pardons, taking the White House furniture, shady cattle futures deals, impeachment, firing the travel office staff to make room for cronies, it goes on and on and on. Discount these scandals as old news if you like, but the American people are going to think long and hard before they vote to turn the White House into the sort of sleazy circus sideshow that it was during Bill Clinton’s tenure as President.
Although Hillary Clinton would be far from a pushover, she’s not an unstoppable juggernaut either. To the contrary, Hillary is a deeply flawed candidate who would have great difficulty beating a credible, conservative Republican. So while it’s important not to get overconfident about a potential race against Hillary Clinton, we shouldn’t minimize her numerous weaknesses either.