by Charles Gordon
March 6, 2007
With Barack Obama having emerged as her early challenger, some are asking whether Hillary Clinton will even win the Democratic nomination for president, let alone the presidency itself.
As of now, the Obama challenge seems to be fueling the complacency of some Republicans who’ve long believed that a Hillary Clinton presidency is somehow a practical impossibility.
That belief was always based more on wishful thinking than on anything else. It ignores an inescapable calculus: if Hillary holds on to the states that Al Gore and John Kerry carried in 2000 and 2004, all she needs is to win one or two more states and she will be America’s next commander-in-chief.
If we want our Army, Navy, and Marines, our Rangers and our Green Berets, our Navy Seals and our Delta Force, our intelligence assets and our homeland security apparatus all under Hillary’s command, then we should just lull ourselves to sleep with the lazy refrain, “America will never elect her.”
So how can Hillary win?
Again, even if the status quo remains, all it will take is one state from the GOP column swinging Hillary’s way.
But if the status quo worsens, if, say, the economy is in a recession as of 2008, Hillary could win handily. With her husband at her side on the campaign trail, the unmistakable message would be, “Remember the economic boom during the Clinton years? Well, you can have it back again. Elect Hil and you’ll get back Bill.”
Never mind that the Clinton boom was in actuality the Gingrich boom — since Newt’s Congress got the ball rolling by reducing capital gains tax rates to historic levels. To this day, when it comes to the economy, people give Bill Clinton credit where credit is clearly not due.
But what about the Obama challenge?
Barring the unforeseen, it looks like Obama’s bid for the nomination is doomed unless he can make tremendous inroads in the black community. Thus far, black Democrats strongly support Hillary over Obama. Like most other Democrats, they clearly want a Democrat in the White House and believe that Hillary has by far a better chance than Obama of winning the general election.
Ironically, Obama is doing better with white leftists, but given Obama’s Clintonesque penchant for telling people what they want to hear, the hard left is likely to become disillusioned with him eventually. It’s extremely unlikely that such a candidate can long retain the loyalty of the Michael Moore/Cindy Sheehan wing of the party.
So Hillary is still the strong favorite to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency and even if nothing changes between now and November 2008, she can conceivably win the White House.
Again, a bad economy can make her win big, but there’s something else that might help her no matter how the economy fares and that something is increased turnout among women, particularly single women. As the first female to win the nomination of either party for president, Hillary would be making history and could mobilize women who’ve never voted in their lives to make further history by casting their ballots for her.
So what can Republicans do to stop Hillary?
Quite simply, they can obey what should be the cardinal rule of politics, which is, “Never demoralize your base.”
Put simply, the first step in stopping Hillary is to choose a candidate who reflects the values and beliefs of the Republican base.
That’s the first step.
The next step is to articulate a conservative message in such a way that the GOP nominee appears progressive and forward-looking, while Hillary appears in contrast as reactionary and backward. Liberalism must be portrayed for what it truly is — old, feeble, decrepid, and unrelentingly negative. Conservatism must be portrayed as dynamic and positive.
And the final step is to force Hillary to choose between a near-lunatic base which wants America to bury its head in the sand in the face of a worldwide terror threat and mainstream America which wants the next president to be strong and tough against those who would perpetrate another 9/11 if they could.
Can Hillary win? Absolutely. Will she win? Not if Republicans stand tall for a positive, unapologetic conservatism, on both domestic and foreign policy, and find a candidate who embodies that spirit and philosophy.
UPDATE, April 14, 2013, by Rod Martin: Re-reading this today, I cannot help but note that my friend Charles (the author of this post) completely missed the technological revolution which gave Barack Obama the 2008 Democratic nomination (I have written on this extensively). However, his core points about how to win (from the Republican perspective) remain essentially true (minus, once again, the need for a vastly improved technology effort). Especially of note is Charles’ prescription “to force Hillary to choose” between the radical leftist base and mainstream America: as it turned out, she chose the latter reasonably early in the process, and her lunatic fringe nominated Obama.
Nevertheless, 2010 bears out the rest of Charles’ counsel; as sadly do 2008 and 2012 in a negative way. My chief addition would just be this: it must be a hope-filled, big idea, opportunity conservatism, not simply a negative platform of “No!” I’m not suggesting we’ve been offering the latter. I am suggesting we have been offering far too little of the former.