by Charles Gordon
August 28, 2007

The latest from pundit-land is “no” since up to 50% of Americans say they will definitely not vote for her.

But for those of us who have watched her public appearances over time, from speeches to debates, the answer isn’t so clear.

Here’s a good analogy: If you’ve seen the original Rocky movie on DVD (or VHS), you may recall a scene where Apollo Creed, the heavyweight champion, is not taking his upcoming fight with Rocky very seriously. But while Apollo is basically enjoying himself with friends, one of them has broken away for a moment and is watching TV intently. Seeing Rocky’s training regimen and his deadly earnest focus, he realizes that the champ is in trouble. He tries to call Apollo away from his entourage, but nobody’s listening.

Now the analogy is imperfect because Hillary, unlike Rocky, is not an unknown entity, and there is no Republican equivalent to Apollo, i.e. an incumbent who is the overwhelming favorite.

Nonetheless, when it comes to Hillary, not enough Republicans are watching the TV screen carefully. They’re not seeing her disingenuous but awfully shrewd positions on Iraq. They’re not seeing her debate performances, where she stays calm and cool and in control while the others, led by Barack Obama, compete over who can stick their feet in their mouths first. Most important, they’re not seeing how all she has to do to pull ahead of Republicans is to drive down her negative poll numbers by just a few percentage points.

The New York Republican Party made precisely the same mistake in 2000. Result? First Lady Hillary Clinton became U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.

Can Hillary win? Yes she can. Three issues may decide the 2008 election — Iraq, the war on terror, and the economy. Iraq favors the Democrats today. That could change but then again, maybe it won’t. The war on terror favors the Republicans, as Hillary herself admitted this week. But as for the economy, if we have a recession next year, that will favor Hillary, thanks to the fact that her husband presided over an economic boom, albeit not of his own making.

Message to GOP: Don’t obsess, but take Hillary seriously as a truly dangerous opponent, unless you want her to be your next Commander-in-Chief.