Let’s face it: Hillary Clinton needs help. She is trailing in the delegate count, is on the receiving side of atrocious media coverage, and faces a rock star opponent who seems to have captured the momentum.
Many conservatives share a common cause with her: slowing down or stopping Barack Obama. Yes, he has considerable weaknesses which John McCain will be able to exploit, but the prospect of losing Clinton (with all of her baggage) as the potential opponent in the general election is making conservatives queasy. She is not used to taking advice from vast right-wing conspirators, but, frankly, her own side has been doing a lousy job.
Her new message needs to be “Yes, you can DO WHAT?” She has timidly suggested Barack Obama is more sizzle than steak, but this should be the focus of her counteroffensive. His great weakness, particularly in the eyes of working class Democrats, is that his campaign is far more about him and his charismatic style of politics than about any policy.
She can make this point resonate with Democrats who are not as entranced with rhetoric and style as the elites in the media. Democrats who are dreamers (e.g. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern) tend to lose elections while Democrats who are doers (e.g. Harry Truman and Bill Clinton) get elected and may even get something done. Put differently, her best pitch is “Yes, I can; He can’t.”
Senator Clinton also needs to be clear on foreign policy: John McCain will paint Obama as a lefty dove, unaware of the dangers America faces and unfit to go toe to toe with the world’s dictators. She can credibly say that McCain won’t be able to tag her as the one willing to have tea with the despots. Democrats are tired of being labeled as weak on national security, so why give the Republicans an inviting target?
Specifically, she needs to talk about the advisors who surround Obama. There is Zbigniew Brzezinski who visits Bashar Assad and issues a statement assuring the world that Syria shares an interest in regional stability. Then there is Samantha Power, Harvard professor and journalist, who contends that the real problem in the Middle East is our excessive devotion to Israel. Her solution is for the U.S. to invest billions in the Palestinian state complete with a “mammoth protection force,” presumably to guard them from Israeli anti-terrorist forces.
Clinton’s message should be: He is dangerously naive and surrounds himself with flaky advisors, facts which McCain would quickly exploit.
Finally, she needs to bat down two media story lines: he is more electable and the race is over. The only evidence that Obama would do better against McCain is current polling, six months in advance of the general election and taken without the benefit of a full exploration of Obama’s record and views.
If you look at actual voting in relevant states, she has won narrowly in New Mexico and solidly in New Hampshire which are key swing states in the general election. She is running strong in the key state of Ohio. So if the question is who can get to 270 electoral votes, she is arguably in the stronger position.
As for the race being “over,” the delegate math is indisputable. Neither candidate will get to 2025 votes by June. So all the talk of an Obama coronation only proves her point: he has no idea what a real political dog fight is all about. And Michigan and Florida? Democrats believe every vote should count, so any victory premised on excluding millions of voters is illegitimate and unsustainable.
Well, that is a start. It may not be possible to make Clinton any more likeable, or hide her husband from public view, or make her own resume more impressive than it is. Nevertheless, she could do worse than to take some of this advice. She certainly has so far.