2012: A Clinton Odyssey?
While I was away from the website for a few days, the latest Clinton conspiracy theory came into full bloom, during the weekend news cycle. This is the idea that the Clintons, realizing that they cannot catch Barack Obama for the nomination this time around, have decided to weaken him as the Democratic nominee. In doing so, their hope is that he will lose to John McCain in November, thereby establishing Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee in 2012. I initially dismissed the idea out-of-hand, but an old friend suggested to me that the Clintons are sealed in a political bubble, completely focused on devising a strategic path back to the White House, and quite possibly may view this as a realistic Plan B should Obama be just out of reach in the primaries.
For the sake of argument, if we go with the idea that this strategy has at least crossed their minds, let me say a few words about why it would not be a workable plan. It has been my sense for a long time now that presidential candidates get one really good run at their party’s nomination. The speed and brutality of the news cycle, the length of the campaign, and the exhaustive familiarity it breeds, take the polish off of most candidates after a single go-round. That is why John Edwards couldn’t make it this year. It is also why John Kerry decided to not even try running again. Take a look at a candidate like Dennis Kucinich. While he has never been in serious contention for the nomination, most political observers would agree that his 2004 campaign was much sharper and effective than its 2008 incarnation. John McCain is a bit of an exception to this rule, but keep in mind that his second run comes eight years after his first attempt, not four. There is something about running in successive electoral cycles that makes voters weary of a particular candidate, and Clinton would be no exception.
So, while we may never know for sure whether the Clintons truly believe that this 2012 strategy is a workable alternative, in practice I don’t see it eventually securing Hillary Clinton the nomination. Should the Democrats lose the White House again in 2008, there will likely be a new constellation of fresh faces just as eager as some Democrats currently are to move beyond a Clinton dynasty. In any event, the residual anger among many voters for the Clintons’ role in weakening Obama would certainly seal Hillary Clinton’s fate.
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