Sunday, May 6, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: Hillary Clinton

Last week, I outlined my plan to work my way out of my candidate selection funk. Today is the first stop in this process. I have decided to review the candidates in alphabetical order by last name. That means we start with Hillary Clinton.

For the Joe Biden fan out there, and I know there is one, I also made a decision to start with the so called "top tier" candidates. So despite Joe's great one word answer in the debate, I am going to wait to cover the "other" candidates out there. Next week, therefore, John Edwards will be on the block.

Follow me to see how Hillary Clinton measures up.

The two broad criteria I am using to evaluate the candidates are these:

The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their
ability to win the general election.

I am a true believer in values based decision making. Here are the values I have chosen to bring to bear on this particular process:

  • community
  • individual liberty and capacity for self-government.
  • equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.
  • thirst for innovation and civic duty.
  • insist upon new, viable means to achieve progressive ideals.

Here's the values Hillary Clinton has expressed in her speeches:

Foreign Policy

  • bipartisan consensus and; non-partisan competence
  • "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind"
  • we must value diplomacy as well as a strong military.
  • "Let us never negotiate from fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."


  • we can't be secure without a strong economy.
  • we cannot sustain our deepest values without an economy that rewards hard work.
  • fiscal discipline,
  • rewarding hard work,
  • investing in our people,
  • growing a strong middle class by giving everyone a chance to succeed.

Energy Policy

  • Energy we all know is essential to our economic security, and the trend lines are terrible.
  • our values demand that we be good stewards of the planet for our children and our children's children.
  • how will we get there? Two words: innovation and efficiency.

How does Hillary bring these values into play via her stance on the issues? Let's start with Iraq. If you can not get past the Iraq issue, you are nowhere. In a recent CBS News Poll 36% of Americans named Iraq as the most important issue. No other issue was even in double digits.

The albatross around Hillary's neck is her initial vote to authorize the war. She continues to exacerbate this by refusing to acknowledge that this vote was a mistake. Whether she can get away with this is still an open question.

Beyond the initial authorization of the war, Clinton has been a harsh critic of the Bush administrations' prosecution of the war. After Bush vetoed the supplemental approps bill, Clinton said this:

With his veto today, President Bush has made it clear that he is standing in
the way of ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home. The nation is
ready for the President to stop disregarding the will of the American people and
to work with Democrats on a funding bill that will enable us to begin
redeploying our troops.

Two days later, Senator Clinton:

announced that she and Senator Robert Byrd will introduce legislation to end
authority for the war in Iraq. The legislation will propose October 11, 2007 --
the five year anniversary of the original resolution authorizing the use of
force in Iraq -- as the expiration date for that resolution.

Is she doing the right things now regarding Iraq? Is it enough to overcome her initial vote and her continued refusal to admit a mistake?

Hillary has not made a lot of noise about the economy lately. At least not according to her press releases. As for health care, she seems to be taking an incrementalist approach. She is talking about expanding health care for children. Haven't seen anything from Hillary on Universal Health Care.

Clinton led the pack in fundraising in the first quarter of this year. However, she did not blow away the field as many people expected. The bigger news was that Barack Obama actually raised more primary money than Hillary. However, Hillary was able to transfer $10 million from her Senate campaign to her presidential campaign. It also remains to be seen if she can sustain this torrid fundraising pace.

Say what you will about James Carville and Terry McAuliffe. There is one thing they can say that most of the rest of us can not. They have won the big enchilada. They have been there and done that before. Between Bill and Hillary Clinton, there are a ton of folks out there that owe them favors, and they are putting together a first rate team throughout the country. Two knocks on the team so far:
  • They have been very ham handed in their fundraising efforts. People are giving, but they don't like their arms being twisted so much.
  • There is some concern that these guys think they are running the 1992 campaign all over again. This election is about the future, as all elections are.

Hillary's primary strategy seems to revolve around the inevitability of her nomination. She has been leading the polls from the outset. She has received the endorsement of Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack when he dropped out of the race.and thus gets the benefit of most of his Iowa organization. As the Senator from New York, she pretty much has favorite daughter status in New Hampshire. And Bill's huge popularity in the African American community give her a big leg up in South Carolina.

With all that she has going for her, I still am not feeling it from the Clinton campaign. She just does not get my juices flowing. Maybe she's too calculated. Maybe she still doesn't get it on Iraq. Whatever it is, she has not closed the deal with me at all.

One of the other things that I am trying to evaluate is the candidates ability to win the general election, should they be the nominee. I have the least comfort on this factor with Hillary. Here is probably the biggest reason why:

A new Gallup poll shows Sen. Hillary Clinton's approval rating in the net
negative territory
, with 45% having a positive view and 51% having a negative
view. This has dropped dramatically from the start of the year when her
favorability rating was 58% positive/40% negative.

This means that Clinton must convince people who already don't like her to change their minds. This is a much more difficult proposition than her primary rivals face. It is my biggest concern about her candidacy. And it put her on the bottom of the list of top tier candidates for me.

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