The Quest For the Anti-Hillary Continues
Good article by Matt Bai on the desperate search by many Democrats for an alternative to Clinton, and why it won’t be an easy task:
Much as [Mark Warner] likes Kerry and worked hard for him in Virginia, Warner said, the Democratic Party had once again, in 2004, nominated a candidate who could not appeal on a cultural level to white, small-town voters in wide swaths of the country. Warner argued that he was more likely than any of the other potential Democratic candidates to break that cycle.
The candidate he was really talking about, of course, was Clinton. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t do a great job in the White House, necessarily; what Warner was saying, without actually saying it, was that she couldn’t get there. Democrats, he liked to say, could not afford to keep trotting out nominees who could expect to win only 16 blue states and then hope, just maybe, for the “triple bank shot” that might deliver Ohio or Florida. They needed a candidate who could compete everywhere.
…The party’s insiders, expecting Clinton to be a virtually unstoppable force, seem to be falling in line behind her, which means there will be only so much additional money and organization left over for those who would challenge her. But more than anything, Democrats will tell you that they are desperate to win next time around, and a lot of pragmatic activists and voters worry that Clinton is too divisive to take back the White House. (In a Gallup poll in January, 51 percent of respondents said they would definitely not vote for her.)
These Democrats are actively shopping for a candidate who can derail Clinton before the party, as they see it, dooms itself to yet another near miss. And so the conventional thinking holds that there may only be room for two serious candidates by the time the primaries roll around: Hillary and the anti-Hillary. What Mark Warner needs to do now, just as his rivals do, is to begin making the case, as subtly as possible and before most of the country has even started to think about 2008, that the senator from New York is the wrong candidate for the party – and that only he can stop her.
If Clinton decides to run for president, no matter who ultimately runs against her for the party’s nomination, she will begin with the kind of institutional advantages that have been reserved, in the past, for vice presidents like Walter Mondale and Gore.
It starts with money. At the end of last year, according to the Hotline, the Washington online digest, Clinton had more than $17 million in the bank for her re-election campaign in New York – and no serious opponent to spend it against. By contrast, Warner, capping a surprisingly sound fund-raising season, had amassed a little under $2.5 million for his political action committee, Forward Together.
What’s more, Clinton will arrive in early primary states with a built-in base of voters. She has been campaigning in these states, off and on, for 15 years and knows every stop along the way; she can count on the endorsements of most of the local elected officials and interest groups, all of whom come with their own e-mail lists and organizers.
And then there’s the winless strategic genuises who hang out with Markos Moulitsas Zuniga to deal with:
To be a successful insurgent in 2008, a candidate probably needs a serious following online. The activists in the so-called Netroots, people who connect to politics primarily through MoveOn.org and the liberal blogs, will be even more populous and more motivated than in 2004, and while it’s impossible to generalize, it seems that most of the Netroots are eager to find a candidate who isn’t Hillary Clinton.
The political argument most often and most forcefully proffered online has very little to do with ideology per se, and everything to do with partisanship. Rather than arguing for any particular agenda, what MoveOn.org and the bloggers demand from Democratic politicians is unwavering opposition to what they see as a corrupt Republican majority and to the supposed capitulation of Washington Democrats.
The party’s online activists don’t want to hear about the compromises it takes to govern; they want someone who will derail the Republican agenda, even if having to strap oneself to the tracks with two fistfuls of dynamite. All this would seem to pose a problem for Warner, who does not make for an especially convincing partisan. He is, at heart, a cooperative, compromising kind of guy – which, he would argue, is how he managed to get so much done in Virginia.
Similarly, Warner, an unapologetic pro-business Democrat, rejects the reflexive anticorporatism that permeates much of the populist fervor online. “If the move is truly back to old-line ’70s populism, then I’m probably not the guy,” Warner said.
Democratic strategists have a kind of “silver bullet” theory of the 2008 race. The thinking goes that if Clinton is indeed running for president in the autumn of 2007, then whoever emerges as the alternative will have just two shots at beating her: in the Iowa party caucuses or the New Hampshire primary.
The problem with this theory is that an establishment candidate like Clinton can rely on a kind of built-in fire wall. Even if she loses in Iowa or New Hampshire, the campaign immediately becomes a national contest, diffused into large states in every part of the country. This requires both huge sums of money and some amount of star power, as well as lots of surrogates – that is, governors, senators and the like – who will fan out across their states to do your campaigning for you.
Little wonder, then, that Joe Trippi, the Internet genius who orchestrated the former Vermont governor Howard Dean’s insurgent campaign for the 2004 nomination, when asked how Warner or one of the other candidates would go about taking the nomination from Clinton, actually laughed. “It’s not possible,” he said. “The way for Mark Warner? Leave the freakin’ party.”
Well, there’s another way for Mark Warner – deliberately bypass the loser Trippi and the squawking Nutroots®, and pay them no mind whatsoever, as their power is a figment of their very large imaginations. Markos and his ilk will not like Warner no matter what he does – leave the pandering to John Kerry, and campaign for the heartland, and you might win not only the nomination, but the election.
Anyway, that’s my advice…and unlike the Kos, I’ll offer it free of charge…