Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary's In. Now What?

Not even a few hours after I posted that Hillary Clinton was thinking about running for President, she goes and announces she's in. Yes, that's the kind of power I have in politics...

Seriously, it was foregone conclusion she was going to run sooner or later, but now that she's committed to it, I have a question. Does it matter anymore?

To Democrats, it certainly matters. With Hillary in the race, campaign dynamics change. Susan Estrich has said in the past that Bill and Hillary "suck the oxygen out of the room" and it's still true. Backers who were biding their time waiting for Hillary to jump in now can throw their support behind her, leaving also-rans like Al Gore, John Kerry, Joseph Biden, Tom Vilsack, and Bill Richardson to fend for scraps. She can also draw supporters away from other bigger hitters, like John Edwards and Barack Obama. Now, the race for the nomination in 2008 is a three person race.

On the other hand, Hillary jumping in may energize the anti-Clinton base within the Democrat Party. As popular as the Clintons remain, they are starting to make enemies in their midst. Many grassroots Democrats I've talked to are less than enthused about Hillary because they either see her as a Bush-like politician or as part of the problem with why they've had relatively bad luck since 2000. And both sides are right. Will it be enough to dethrone Queen Hillary? We'll see.

For Republicans, Hillary's hat toss in the ring matters because they can resurrect their anti-Clinton rhetoric. (Who says Republicans aren't into recycling?) As it stands, they need something to energize their base, which has been dissatisfied with the party as of late. Now, they have a figure to hate again. Regardless of whether you're a Bible-thumping Christian conservative or a liberal Republican just to the right of Joe Lieberman, you don't really want a Clinton wandering the halls of the White House.

Now, for the people outside of the major parties. To us, I don't think it really matters because we've seen Hillary's song and dance before. From "standing by her man" to standing up to Bush's troop surge idea, Hillary has never really nailed down a position for very long on that many issues, and certainly not on issues that matter to average Americans. She just doesn't seem to be genuine, which is still important to voters. If you thought John Kerry flip-flopped, Republican ads about Hillary will make him look like a rank amateur.

The real test will be the Iowa Caucuses. For the time being, Iowans are still the kingmakers, as it were, on the political front since we hold the first contests in the campaign season. We pay attention to candidates who can appeal to us, who inspire us, who are real. Hillary has a full year to warm Iowans up to her. We'll see if she can or if we tell her to pack it in early.

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