With over 400 days till the 2008 election, I am always amazed by the confidence and passion that everyday citizens express as they state their opinions on politics and the multiple candidates running for President. The two favorite opinions I hear expressed at New York and Washington dinner parties (certainly not representative of the country at large) is that Rudy Gulliani can’t be the Republican nominee and there is no way the country is going to elect Hillary Clinton President. The facts that Rudy leads all national polls among Republican primary voters and that Hillary nearly laps her closest Democratic rival (and beats all potential Republicans in a general head to head match up) means nothing to those who believe so passionately. Facts and evidence to the contrary cannot convince those who are so convinced otherwise.
As a participant in national politics for over four decades, and as the manager for Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984, I just smile and think back to the 70’s when I was first living in Washington, DC working in the Nixon administration. My Rockefeller friends would invite me to dinner, ply me with wine, and then expect me to entertain them and the other dinner guests by explaining how Ronald Reagan was going to be elected president.
I then had passion, and no facts. My friends would chuckle and argue back “No way!” That Reagan was elected in 1980 and went on to become one of this country’s greatest Presidents was not something that could be argued with the certainty that I presented in the mid 70’s.
But I am still amazed when some very smart person says; “There is no way that person can be elected President!”
In my life time the only man who was a lock to be president was Dwight David Eisenhower, war hero extraordinaire, who won two landslides in the 50’s. Every president who followed was belittled, laugh at, and at some point ran with no real expectations to win.
John Kennedy was an inexperienced playboy who didn’t work hard enough. No way he could beat the experienced Vice president Richard Nixon. He did.
There was no way Nixon could be elected president after losing in 1960 and then getting clobbered 2 years latter in losing the governorship of his home state, California. But Nixon was elected in 68 and reelected in a landslide in 72.
Jimmy Carter in 1976 was viewed by many in his own party as a joke who couldn’t have been re elected Governor in Georgia if they allowed a second term. He went on to win and become one of the nation’s worst Presidents. Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford became president by extraordinary events. Neither man could have won the office or even the nominations of their parties without those events. Even Ronald Reagan and the two Bush’s were unexpected winners and all three began as underdogs. And the last guy any one expected to be president was William Jefferson Clinton., attacked as a draft dodger and womanizer in the middle of the primary season by his democract opponents. He survived, with a major assist by Hillary on 60 mins, and went on to win election and re election and was impeached for again being a womanizer. So let’s not use the term He or in this case “She can’t win the Presidency.”
I won’t deal with who is going to be the Rep nominee. It is a race that is extremely close and a few capable candidates have real chances of being the nominee. But in view of the history Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate in years and is not only going to be the democratic nominee; she can be elected President. I am not happy about that, but those are the facts.
And Republicans and conservatives better wake up to those facts. Underestimating her appeal or her campaign team and over focusing on her negatives, is not smart. I repeat she can win and we better start working on ways to beat her. The first Republican President, I worked for instructed me on all that matters in Presidential elections, the Electoral College. That man, Richard Nixon, always kept a yellow pad somewhere in or on his desk with two columns listed on it. In one column were states he thought he could win. The other column listed states he thought he could lose. He looked at it daily and discussed it with whoever was around him. No domestic decision was ever made that he didn’t look at those states and figure out which ones might be affected by his presidential actions. He would move them around from time to time but he always made sure at least 270 electoral votes were in his win column.
I am sure Bill Clinton — the next “Strategist in Chief” — has a similar system. And it’s not the national polls or the Iowa or New Hampshire polls that worry me. It’s putting those states on one side or the other of a yellow pad that bothers me. We are now a divided nation ideologically and geographically. Republicans are now a southern party and that is our base. Hillary is not going to erode that base no matter who we nominate. But on the other side, Hillary is not going to lose a state Al Gore carried or John Kerry won.
Gore carried 21 states and Kerry 20 .
That gives her more than 250 electoral votes and within striking distance of the magic 270.We all know that a change of 537 votes in Florida in 2000, and Texans wouldn’t be raising money for a George W. Bush Library. Less than 60,000 votes in Ohio kept John Kerry from being Commander in Chief, a frightening thought. What you might not know is that 18,777 vote shift in 3 states Iowa, New Mexico, and Nevada and a electoral college tie would have occurred and the House would have decided the election. Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Nevada are in play again along with some other states like Virginia, Colorado and many of the swing states of the last 2 elections.
Hillary is not just a contender, I rate her a favorite. But she can be beaten by the right candidate with a unified party.
It’s like a game of “Texas Hold Em.” Your pair of two’s don’t look like much but it beats one of a kind in the other players hand. Today I would say Hillary’s got 3 of a kind with aces and we need to draw to an inside straight.
The good news is there is a long ways to go. And Hillary is a Clinton. And as we know with the Clinton’s anything can happen and usually does.