Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Democrats worry Clinton may be drag on down-ticket candidates"

So sez the AP.

Looking past the presidential nomination fight, Democratic leaders quietly fret that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top of their 2008 ticket could hurt candidates at the bottom.

They say the former first lady may be too polarizing for much of the country. She could jeopardize the party's standing with independent voters and give Republicans who otherwise might stay home on Election Day a reason to vote, they worry.

In more than 40 interviews, Democratic candidates, consultants and party chairs from every region pointed to internal polls that give Clinton strikingly high unfavorable ratings in places with key congressional and state races.

"I'm not sure it would be fatal in Indiana, but she would be a drag" on many candidates, said Democratic state Rep. Dave Crooks of Washington, Ind...

...A strategist with close ties to leaders in Congress said Democratic Senate candidates in competitive races would be strongly urged to distance themselves from Clinton.

"The argument with Hillary right now in some of these red states is she's so damn unpopular," said Andy Arnold, chairman of the Greenville, S.C., Democratic Party. "I think Hillary is someone who could drive folks on the other side out to vote who otherwise wouldn't..."

...What the Clinton campaign doesn't say is that her edge over potential Republican candidates is much smaller than it should be, given the wide lead the Democratic Party holds over the GOP in generic polling.

The problem is her political baggage: A whopping 49 percent of the public says they have an unfavorable view of Clinton compared to 47 percent who say they hold her in high regard, according to a Gallup Poll survey Aug. 3-5.

Her negative ratings are higher than those of her husband, former President Clinton, former President George H.W. Bush and 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry at the end of their campaigns.

A candidate's unfavorability scores almost always climb during campaigns. If the pattern holds, Clinton has a historically high hurdle to overcome.
Apologies for all the ellipses; the whole article was good stuff, but I didn't want to overquote. Drilling it down to its essentials, it's the same old problem that's always existed with Clinton: that despite her popularity with certain segments of the Democratic party's primary voter pool, she has massive negatives that will probably hurt downticket candidates, drive Republicans to vote against her en masse, and may even push away some swing voters.

Of course, most candidates who face this problem make up for it by courting the base. Republicans are extraordinarily good at using their base to overcome the loathing of progressives towards their candidates, and even exploit it to build up loyalty with said base. That's the problem with Clinton, though: she's alienated the base. The more activist a Dem is, the less likely it is that they'll be a Hillary Clinton supporter, because of her bizarrely "centrist" policy positions.

It's still deeply, deeply weird. Had Clinton deliberately courted progressives, had she been the "sensible left" candidate that I'm sure 2001-2004 Hillary would have been, she would have easily scooped up the base, and been able to combine it with the strong mass of pro-Hillary female voters to create an incredibly viable progressive candidacy. She was the one who was going on about the "vast right wing conspiracy" back when people still made fun of such things, and the base was still quite fond of her at that point. She could have combined the Clinton charisma--and, yes, she does have some--with a progressive base-pleasing platform in a way that her husband never could.

Instead, she's somehow managed to craft a policy platform that alienates everybody who is engaged, whether Republican or Democrats. Republicans will work to defeat her, but the base will be reluctant to work to help her, and might even defect to the Greens out of sheer frustration. You'd think that she'd be trying to smooth away the things alienating her from the base during the debates, but that isn't really happening, either. She's just being aggressively evasive, and annoying them even more for it. It may help her win, but for all the wrong reasons, and she'll have a devil of a time in the general.

It isn't even a money thing, either. Pleasing the base isn't exactly a bad financial position, not in these days of big blog bundlers.

Honestly, I'm baffled. I'm guessing it's the same bevvy of idiot "advisers" that dragged Kerry and Gore down. But why on earth listen to them?

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