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February 11, 2008

Why Republicans Should Root for Hillary Clinton Over Barack Obama


Now that John McCain has virtually locked up the Republican nomination, most attention has been turned to the showdown between Democratic titans Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And that’s good for Republicans. The longer the Democrats fight, the more vicious their battle will get. And the Democratic Party and nominee will be weaker for it going into November.


But at some point, one of them will make it out alive and turn this Democratic fury toward John McCain. Many Republicans hope that nominee will be Obama. The idea is, he’s young and inexperienced, and will turn out Hispanic voters in favor of Republicans – all of which is true. Others add that his black (well, half-black to be more precise) status and his full name – Barack Hussein Obama – would energize voters against him. This is less convincing, since the net effect of his color would probably be positive, but a legitimate argument nonetheless.


Despite these claims, Republicans should hope that Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, and might want to do what they can to help her in what is now an uphill battle against Obama. And she could use the help – after all, promises of exceedingly hypothetical “hope” and wholly unspecified “change” are remarkably difficult to defeat in a Democratic primary.


For one thing, Clinton is divisive. She has been around long enough for people to be with her or against her. And many are against her – too many, in fact, for her to win a presidential election. The only way for Republicans to manage a loss against Clinton is to run someone as extreme and unlikable as she is. But they didn’t.


Republicans nominated McCain, who would have the upper hand against even a moderate Democrat considering his broad appeal to independents. After hurting him in the Republican primary season, McCain’s reputation as a “maverick” will finally present an enormous advantage in November. It will be hard for Clinton to associate McCain with President Bush or the far-right when his main political obstacles have been his moderation, independent thinking and tendency to infuriate conservatives.


Further, Clinton’s years as a First Lady and as a two-term senator would neutralize any claims about McCain being a Washington insider. Compare that with Obama, who can turn his inexperience and mediocre 37-month journey in federal politics to his advantage by claiming the ability to change Washington (which, if his Senate months are any indication, he would change to “the land where senators don’t work”). Obama is uniquely positioned to assume the “outsider” role that governors have historically claimed in their runs against legislators and other Washington insiders.


Further, Clinton in November would bring out the traditional Democratic base, and nothing more. Unlike Obama, she would not be able to motivate new black voters and young voters who want to hope for change (whatever that means). If anything, Clinton would not only turn independents against the Democrats, but would also mobilize the conservative base like no one else would. All those conservatives claiming to oppose McCain would forcefully drag their families and friends to vote for the maverick against another Clinton.


The Clinton legacy, of course, has not yet been effaced from the American mind. Bill Clinton left us with a recession, a vulnerable homeland and an insecure world. He disgraced the office of the presidency. And he let his wife fool around with health care, which proved to be a complete disaster. For lazy Americans who would normally rather sleep in than head to the polls, these memories more than suffice in providing the necessary energy to cast an anti-Hillary vote. Many people might not want eight more years of Bush, but they definitely don’t want any more years of Clinton. This is a problem that nominee Obama would not have to face.


Demographics, of course, also have a big effect on the vote. Obama would mobilize many more blacks than Clinton would mobilize women. And on the margin, polls show that Americans are more willing to hand the presidency to a black man than any woman. Age is also a factor. The 46-year-old Obama could be more attractive to younger voters than 60-year-old Clinton, considering McCain is 72 years old. And of course, Obama’s potential first lady would be much more attractive than Hillary’s, and would actually be able to compete with Cindy McCain for the amiability award.


So, is it dangerous to suggest that Republicans help Clinton win the nomination? What if she wins the nomination and then the presidency?


It is conceivable that Clinton could win in November, but that doesn’t mean Republicans should shy away from helping her in the primary season. For one, her victory could mean that Obama would have won by an even bigger margin.


But more importantly, Clinton would make a better president than Obama. She would be more conservative, and her foreign policy skills would help her deal with Iraq and the war on terror more competently than Obama (although she would still do a dreadful job, overall). She would moderate her actions in order to get a second term, and unlike Obama, she would not have the charisma to carry out some of her more extreme plans.


Clinton would be both easier to beat and a better president than Obama. For Republicans, her nomination would present the best of both worlds.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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