Will you vote for President Hillary come 2008? According to the conventional wisdom, it’s practically a done deal that Hillary Clinton will not only run for president in 2008, but will be the Democratic candidate. Karl Rove has already started [beating the drum] about the dangers of this coming to pass and early polls seem to give her the nod. Clinton is certainly playing coy about her plans, while amassing a huge war chest. Looks like a done deal alright. But there’s something interesting hidden in the polls that neither Hillary nor Karl nor the mainstream media will talk about.
In February, an [NBC/Marist poll] asked a national sample of likely voters about their preferences among both likely and unlikely candidates for the 2008 election. Their findings, which made some news at the time, were that Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice were the leading choices from their respective parties. That really was newsworthy — for the first time in American history, voters framed the choice for president as a contest between two women. Hurrah, right? Not so fast. The poll also found that the vast majority of likely voters — almost 3/4 — do not expect either woman to be president. Huh?
Turns out that Clinton and Rice were the front-runners from their party faithful only. When the all-important independent voters were taken into account, it was John McCain all the way — even a large group of Democrats (44%) want to see McCain run for the office. So what to make of the Hillary/Condi hoohaw? Part of it is the timing of the poll — it’s far enough from the election that respondents know it doesn’t really matter to the outcome, they can indulge their ideological whims without care about how well they map to likely outcomes. It’s kind of like the future discount described in a [previous post] — I’ll start going to the gym and vote for Hillary next week because it makes me feel good to say so now. Whether I actually go to the gym or vote for her is far less certain.
There are plenty of good reasons to think that Hillary Clinton will never be president. Let us count the ways:
1. She’s a woman.
Among the under-discussed results of the Marist poll and others is that about half of the likely voters polled would not vote for a woman, primarily because they don’t think women are up to the job. Think about that. Only about half would even consider a candidate from the majority of the human gene pool. When that number is up around 90% we can talk about women presidents of the United States.
2. People hate her. I mean they really hate her.
Clinton seems to be popular only with her Democratic base. To the Republicans, she’s Lillith. Independents aren’t so thrilled with her either, a majority of them don’t want her to run. And this is before the rough and tumble of an actual race is under way. This is the golden time! Granted, Nixon and Reagan were unpopular with the opposing party when they ran for preseident, but the dislike did not seem to be as visceral as it is with the Republicans and Hillary. Would she get even one crossover vote?
3. The Stain.
Ironically, the thing that makes her a household name when it comes to election polls is also, probably, the thing that undercuts her chances the most: her history. Never before has a former First Lady run for president, let alone the First Lady from one of the most controversial administrations in recent history. This ain’t Rosalyn Carter running for office. It’s the woman who sat next to Bubba and opined about a “vast right-wing conspiracy” in the land. The co-president (“two for the price of one!”) who came up with a disastrous plan for national healthcare that set that cause back at least a decade. The woman who doesn’t like to bake cookies for God’s sake! Yes, she’s done good work as Senator for the people of New York — but I doubt even many New Yorkers know what she’s done as senator, and it would have little effect on the national electorate. I just don’t think the country would invite her and Bill back into the White House, knowing that it would open a lot of old wounds and reignite the old fires.
Sullivan goes deeper on her problems [here]. So why are people even talking about her as a candidate? I think out of pure self-interest. The Republicans, having ruined themselves and heading toward disaster, invoke her as the magic totem that can shake their disgruntled base into action. The dollars may not flow to support a McCain candidacy — but they’ll put the farm into hock to make sure another Clinton doesn’t take the presidency. Similarly on the Democratic side, in a perpetual field of mediocre candidates she’s the Great White Liberal from Hope who can generate money. And the mainstream media — run by media conglomerates that have little or no interest in the health of our democracy — chase audiences, and the best way to do that is by manufacturing horse races and plumping up controversial figures — whether they have any real chance or not.
President Hillary? Not in my lifetime. Or hers.