Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Experience and Electability?

So, here we are on the cusp of the first caucus/primaries of the '08 election and a desperate Clinton campaign is pulling out all the stops, including dispatching another surrogate, this time Nebraska's own Democratic hack, Bob Kerry, to smear Obama by using coded words, like "Madrassa." Oh yeah, Hillary's husband made a big announcement last night, too, which should dispel any thought that she is a candidate of change: He said George Bush I would help a Clinton Administration regain its standing in the world. Exactly. Clinton and Bush, together again in '08! Uh, how is that change????? In that one moment, Bill destroyed any vestiges of the change argument for Hil... I thought this guy was supposed to be the ultimate campaigner. It is clear his ego and ambition have gotten the better of his sound political judgement. Bill, please remove foot from mouth and get the heck off the stump. With friends like you, Hillary doesn't need many enemies...

But I want to take on two other claims. First, that Hillary is the candidate with more EXPERIENCE. In fact, she is tied for the LEAST amount of elected experience among Dems, along with John Edwards. Here is how it breaks down on this point:

• Biden: senator 1973-present (34yrs)
• Kucinich: City Council 1970-75, 83-85, Clerk of courts 75-77, Mayor 77-79, Senator (state) 95-97, Congressman (federal) 97-present. (23yrs)
• Richardson: Congressman 83-97, Ambassador 97-98, Energy Sec. 98-01, Governor 03-present. (23yrs)
• Dodd: Congressman 1975-81, Senator 1981-present (22yrs)
• Gravel: Senator 1969-81 (12yrs)
• Obama: Senator 97-05 (state), 05-present (federal). (10yrs)
• Clinton: senator 2001-present (6yrs)
• Edwards: Senator 1999-2005 (6yrs)

Moreover, the Clinton campaign likes to claim it is the more "ELECTABLE" candidate. Again, the evidence just does not support this. For instance, Hillary clearly leads the "anti-vote." A full 40% of all Americans say they would actively vote to block a Clinton presidency, that is more than twice the second place candidate, Giuliani, who had a 17% "anti-vote." Overall, 64% of Republicans, 42% of third-party or Independent voters and nearly 20% of Democrats say the candidate they most want to keep from the White House is Hillary... again, numbers that far surpass her closest rival in this area.

Or, there's the new poll by USA Today that states
In hypothetical matchups for the general presidential election, Clinton and Obama each led Giuliani, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Romney, although at times narrowly.

Obama was somewhat stronger, besting Giuliani by 6 points, Huckabee by 11 and Romney by 18. Clinton had an edge of 1 point over Giuliani, 9 points over Huckabee and 6 points over Romney.

For me, here is the clincher when it comes to ELECTABILITY. I don't have any scientific data on this point, just my anecdotal experience, but if you are a Democrat think long and hard about what I am about to write: Not only does Hillary energize the conservative base in a way no other Democratic candidate does (which is a HUGE strike against her nomination and the idea that she is electable), but also the prospect of a Clinton restoration dispirits and demoralizes a large number of Democrats, myself included. Admit it. Every Democrat knows several other Democrats who are simply and totally turned-off by Hillary and the Clintons. Sure, most will probably hold their nose and vote for her anyway given the alternative, but they won't be energized and they won't work for her or the party. In a tight race, that very well could be the losing margin. This is the most damning evidence against the argument that she is most electable.

Finally, even the prospect of a Clinton campaign is hurting the party already down the line. For example, in Omaha in '08 a good Democrat, Jim Esch almost pulled off a HUGE upset by beating Lee Terry for Congress. This is really quite incredible, in fact. There was much hope he would run again and win in '08. Again, this would have been a major pick-up. But, a few weeks back, Esch announced he would not run again. In his announcement, among other things, he cited the likelihood that Clinton would be the party standard-bearer as one of the major reasons for his decision against running. In essence, he argued that Hillary at the top of the ticket hurt his chances of electoral victory at the bottom of the ticket, particularly in moderate-to-conservative state, like Nebraska.

What do you think? Do you buy Clinton's "experience" and "electability" arguments?

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