Sunday, December 17, 2006

Send in the Clowns, Part I: Hillary Clinton

The war in Iraq is raging, Iran is bubbling, Palestine is splintering from within, budgets are busting, deficits are bursting, Beauty Queens are misbehaving and Presidential hopefuls are dancing... around their decision - or, indecision, to run for the highest office in the land. The press, of course, has been flush with speculation. Not a day goes by without at least one major newspaper running a story on "Senator Barack Obama did this" or "Rudy Guiliani went here" or "John Kerry still hasn't removed his foot from his so-and-so".

The trend of rampant speculation, interviews, Bio's, expert opinion and more, should not be surprising, because - after all, the 2008 Presidential election is a pretty big deal, and given the 24/7 nature of news in this day and age, there is plenty of time to scrutinize and analyze and fantasize about any and every potential, theoretical and hypothetical detail. Do I sound too much like the late Johnny Cochran? My bad.

Onward and upward... it is titillating for political junkies and journalists to speculate about the potential field of candidates. After all, this is the most wide open race since... Carter? Nixon? Ever? The President cannot run again, and the Vice President (almost) certainly will not. The previous Democratic challenger (Kerry) will (hopefully) not run, given his previous failure and repeated gaffes. Further, there is no dearth of candidates on either side of the aisle. A glance at the Democrats alone reveals: Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Vilsack, (Richardson?), (Gore?)... any of which can make the ticket, regardless of the polls. Everyone thought Dean had the nomination in hand... until the first primary.

I will attempt to break down each candidate's chances based on what I have seen so far. Let's start with a Democrat.

To quote Borat: "Wa-wa-wee-wa"
Senator Clinton's HillPac, has millions of dollars on hand. So far this year, it's spent $2,823,249 on Democratic candidates all over the country. This money buys her a lot of power, a lot of fans, and a lot of loyalty. Hundreds of candidates have been on the receiving end of her generosity, and will thus be that much more inclined to back her candidacy. Senator Clinton also has huge name recognition, something money alone can't buy. She has hordes of fans who follow her everywhere she goes. On the flip side, Hillary Clinton is also one of the most polarizing figures in politics. Although the blame cannot be laid entirely at her doorstep, there are as many Hillary-Haters as there are Hillary-Lovers.

Bill Clinton's graceless final term tarnished her reputation and credibility. Certainly, her resume was good enough to get her elected to the Senate in New York, but is she electable in a purple state, where the lines between Democrats and Republicans aren't as clearly drawn? Her tenure in the Senate has been marked by relatively centrist positions on the issues. She continues to push health care initiatives, but she also voted to go to war in Iraq, a weakness her opponents will definitely expose.

Finally, will the electorate trade one political dynasty for another? Is the country ready for Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton? The people may have had enough with the political elite. Americans went to the polls this past mid-term election and voted for change, it is uncertain if they will feel that another Washington insider, who has already lived in the White House, will bring that kind of change.
Senator Clinton still has two years before the fate of her Presidential aspirations is decided. It's certainly too early to predict what will happen. However, there is no question that she is currently the front-runner and most formidable candidate of the Democratic field. Ironically, as is often the case, Hillary's success may depend on events beyond her control; Iraq, the Economy, or any number of variables.

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