By Peter Hannaford on 10.2.07 @ 12:07AM
Better get used to it, folks. Your next president may be someone you have told the pollsters you think is “cold.” That, of course, is Hillary Clinton, whose lead among Democratic presidential candidates gets larger and more solid by the week.
She has long had high negative ratings, but this latest Gallup poll has something new, measuring emotional reactions to candidates. Interviewees were asked to rank candidates on a “feelings thermometer,” with zero as the coldest and 100 as the warmest. Forty-nine percent said Hillary was “warm,” but 44 percent said she is “totally cold.” The rest were neutral.
Forty-four percent “cold” makes her the Ice Queen. Those rated warmest were, in order, Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards, and John McCain.
In previous polls Hillary has been described as “calculating,” which may equate to “cold.” This may have its bright side. Consider this:
Last spring when the MoveOn.org crowd on the far left of the Democratic party was beating the drums to force every one of its presidential candidates to disavow any support for the war against terrorism in Iraq, Sen. Clinton carefully avoided “apologizing” for having voted for the war. She said instead, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have voted against it.” The fact is, she did know then what she knows now, but this lawyerly response provided an escape hatch for future action.
Not long afterward, Senator Obama put his foot in his mouth when he said he’d be willing to meet various dictators (such a Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro) unconditionally. Hillary’s answer to the same question was measured and, well, presidential. Obama has been stuck in the polls ever since.
Experience has taught Hillary to be careful not to say things that will come back to haunt her. She seems to understand instinctively that the outcome of the general election will turn on one great issue: national security. That includes the outcome in Iraq and how we proceed in the war that the radical Islamists have declared on the United States in particular and Western civilization in general.
Once she has the nomination sewn up, say, by next February 6, watch for her to run increasingly on this issue and to be surprisingly hawkish on it. Ironically, the slow but steadily improving conditions in Iraq will give her encouragement. Her campaign objective will be to make it very difficult for the Republican nominee to get to her right. National security has traditionally been a Republican issue. Turning it into a Democratic one in 2008 will be a Hillary priority.
Only two Republican candidates, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have the credentials to challenge her on this central issue. There will be past votes and things she has said that they will have to dig out to make that challenge successful. In addition, since she was supposed to be such an influential First Lady, she will have to answer this question: Why was her husband’s response to al Qaeda attacks so weak?
Should the Ice Queen win, it is just possible that “cold” could equate to giving the cold shoulder to the far left of her own party when it comes to dealing with the central issue of our time — a issue that should override partisanship.
Peter Hannaford was closely associated for a number of years with the late President Reagan, beginning in the California Governor’s office. His latest book is Presidential Retreats.
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