Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hillary and the Left Coast Left

Bob Novak found strong opposition among California Democrats to Hillary as the presidential nominee in 2008. Link.
LOS ANGELES -- Back east, well-placed Democrats have agreed that the party's 2008 nomination is all wrapped up better than three years in advance. They say that the prize is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's for the asking, and that she is sure to ask. But here on the left coast, I found surprising and substantial Democratic opposition to going with the former first lady.

Both the Hollywood glitterati and the more mundane politicians of Los Angeles are looking elsewhere. They have seen plenty of Sen. Clinton over the past dozen years, and they don't particularly like what they've seen. Two far less well-known Democrats -- Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh -- were hits on recent visits to California, mainly because they were not Hillary. [...]

At a dinner party in a private room of a Los Angeles restaurant attended by eight Democratic politicians (including City Council members and a county supervisor), I was asked to assess the political scene. I concluded with a preview of the distant events of 2008. While there had not been so open a race for the Republican nomination since 1940, I said, Clinton was dominant for the Democrats. For someone who is neither an incumbent president nor vice president to have apparently locked the nomination so early is without precedent.

As I made this analysis, the liberal Democratic functionary across the table from me shook his head in disagreement. He left his seat between courses, and then returned with this announcement: "There are eight Democrats in this room. I've taken a little poll, and none of them -- none -- are for Hillary for president. They think she is a loser."

Talking to some of them, I found concern that Hillary carries too much baggage from her turbulent marriage and her husband's presidency to do any better than John Kerry did last year. One female office holder was looking hard for another Southern moderate who could bite into the Confederacy as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had done.

Another woman office holder was hostile to a Clinton candidacy on a more personal basis. "Don't think that Hillary has the women's vote," she told me. "I will never forgive her for sticking with her husband after he humiliated her. It's something I can't get over."

Sometimes in politics, the three most important things are baggage, baggage and baggage. Hillary has got plenty of it. After running one barely contested race, she has been proclaimed a political genius, but her political abilities have never been tested, and a presidential race is a poor choice for on-the-job training. She has the most name recognition of any potential Democrat in the 2008 race, but that is not the same thing as political smarts. She made it into the senate by hiding from the press and the voters, but you cannot do that in a presidential race. The last candidate to try was President Taft in 1912, and he ended up in third place, quite a distinction for an incumbent president.


Post a Comment

<< Home