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7/29/2005

Can Hillary win?

Jacob Weisberg says no. In a nutshell: she's not 'likable' enough.
One facile argument, often voiced by Hillary-loathers on the right, is that she's too far to the left ... Wrong! An unhedged supporter of the war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton stands at the hawkish, interventionist extreme of her party on foreign policy. Despite her pandering vote against CAFTA, she's a confirmed free-trader and deficit hawk. On the cultural issues that often undermine Democrats, she seeks common ground, sometimes with flat-earth conservatives like Rick Santorum, and has been nattering about the "tragedy" of abortion. Even Hillary's notorious government takeover of health care was misconstrued as an ultra-lib stance. In opting for a mixed, private-public managed-competition plan, the then-first lady was repudiating the single-payer model long favored by paleo-liberals.

...Despite being a shrewdly triangulating centrist on the model of her husband, she remains wildly popular with the party's liberal core: It seems to share the right's erroneous view of her as a closet lefty and draws closer to her with every inane conservative attack. There's no other possible candidate in either party so well poised to claim the center without losing the base.

...Yet Hillary does face a genuine electability issue, one that has little to do with ideology, woman-hating, or her choice of life partner. Plainly put, it's her personality. In her four years in the Senate, Hillary has proven herself to be capable, diligent, formidable, effective, and shrewd. She can make Republican colleagues sound like star-struck teenagers. But she still lacks a key quality that a politician can't achieve through hard work: likability. As hard as she tries, Hillary has little facility for connecting with ordinary folk, for making them feel that she understands, identifies, and is at some level one of them. You may admire and respect her. But it's hard not to find Hillary a bit inhuman. Whatever she may be like in private, her public persona is calculating, clenched, relentless—and a little robotic.

...Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004 with candidates Main Street regarded as elitist and aloof, to a candidate voters related to personally. Hillary isn't as obnoxious as Gore or as off-putting as Kerry. But she's got the same damn problem, and it can't be fixed.
I don't know. Maybe some of Bill's likability could rub off on her. Plus, she's already a bit more "humanized" after the whole Lewinsky thing; people seem to generally feel bad for her for being humiliated like that, though some seem to hold it against her that she didn't leave Bill. (What happened to 'Stand By Your Man'?)

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