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Monday, June 14, 2010


Then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed 2008 primary campaign appears to be, mirabile dictu, the blueprint for the Republican party as it is presently constituted. Charmed, I'm sure. "The Hillary Democrats," a significant cultural phenomenon, spellbound the country -- and, notably, paleoconservative commenter Pat Buchanan -- throughout the summer of 2008. Forget the fact that now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and now-President Barack Obama have long since salved all open wounds from that blistering, sanguinary campaign and are now political partners in the fullest sense. That thusness doesn't even factor into the GOP's calculations, which has been fixated upon the political electricity generated by those Obama-Clinton primaries for some time now. Actually, with the "maverick-ish" introduction of Sarah Palin into the national bloodstream, the GOP was already -- as far back at the late summer of 2008 -- borrowing, liberally (pun intended) from the far more dynamic Democrat party. Governor Palin's appeal, particularly to disaffected Pennsylvania voters, was anything but subtle. Nuance with a hammer, if you will. McCain, by comparison a bore, needed to do something politically bold. McCain-Palin sought, cynically, to benefit from the hard feelings left after a tough campaign that revealed, for the first time, weaknesses in Obama's armor. The gambit failed miserably.

Fast forward two years later. Plus ça change, dear readers, plus c'est la même chose. Last week's primaries -- dubbed, we cannot fail to note, "the year of the woman" -- contain curious symmetries with the Clinton strategy that bears further observation:

#1) High-powered career women? Check! Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, is the GOP's candidate for governor in California and Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, is the GOPs candidate for the U.S. Senate.

#2) Second amendment "Annie Oakley-ing"? Check. Sharron Angle, Nevada's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, associates with something called "The Oath Keepers" -- I couldn't make this up if I wanted to -- an testosteronal organization made up of former members of the military, police and firefighters.

#3) Populist rhetoric blasting the opponents for their inability to lead? Uh-huh. Former WWE executive Linda McMahon, who defeated former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons for the endorsement and will face Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, helped stir the Vietnam records controversy with extreme (Clintonian?) prejudice.

Even conservative NY Times Op-Ed columnist Ross Douthat notes the similarities:

This is a remarkable sea change. It’s been less than two decades since 1992 — dubbed the Year of the Woman because a slew of female Democrats won Senate seats, but also a year when much of conservative America viscerally recoiled from Hillary Clinton’s career-woman persona. Now Clinton has become many conservatives’ favorite liberal, and Republicans are fielding a crop of female candidates that includes working moms like (Nikki Haley) (who has two kids under 13), Kristi Noem (a 38-year-old mother of three running for South Dakota’s House seat) and Kelly Ayotte (the front-runner in the New Hampshire Senate primary, who has a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old).

One wonders, considering the startling similarities exhibited above, if there any new ideas left in the Grand Old party? Has it come to this? Is the Republican party suffering from ideological exhaustion? The stale Randian libertarianism redux and now the intellectual borrowings from Hillary Clinton's campaign abound. Has "conservatism" devolved into a series of philosophy from the first half of the 20th Century and borrowings from the opposite side of the aisle?

The Democrats could same guilty of the same kind of ideological nostalgia as the Republicans. The increased presence of former President Bill Clinton, the new campaigner-in-Chief of the Democratic party, in the primary races last week suggests a longing for the good old times. It appears that, like gravity, we will never ever be free of the Clintonian influence. And their "pull" is not just southerly, but westerly as well. Aside from saving Blanche Lincoln's bacon in Arkansas -- a state Bill governed off and on for over a decade -- it has been announced that Clinton will be campaigning extensively for Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. "Even Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.), whom Clinton privately — and unsuccessfully — lobbied earlier this year to drop his Democratic primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter, said he would be 'honored' to have Clinton backing him in the general election against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R)," write Jennifer Bendery and John McArdle in CQ-Roll Call. We cannot fail to note that the three states just mentioned -- Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arkansas -- are all states where Hillary Clinton won those primaries or caucuses. Interesting, no? Further, from CQ-Roll Call:

The prospect of campaigning with President Barack Obama this cycle is enough to make any number of Democratic incumbents salivate. But many would much prefer the attention of a former White House occupant: Bill Clinton.

Even at this early stage in the campaign season, Obama is already dispatching Clinton into some of the roughest electoral territory in the country. And the good news keeps rolling in.

The former president helped to bring out nearly 700 Democrats to cheer on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) at a rally Thursday. And some say he may have single-handedly saved Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) from a bruising primary defeat last week; she relied heavily on ads that Clinton — a former Arkansas governor — cut for her in the final days of her campaign.

And this is just the beginning.

“He’s always been an asset. ... He attracts big crowds, he works tirelessly and he’s a great fundraiser for people. You’re going to see him used as a surrogate and a fundraiser throughout this cycle,” Democratic pollster John Anzalone said. “His numbers are really good. Especially for some of our Southern clients, we’ve been putting him [into polling] as a possible Democrat to come down.”

Finally, if this is the case and if this is the GOP's strategy going forward: why not just have Hillary on the ticket? Obama-Clinton '12 appears increasingly to be the logical choice. On the plus side: Hillary connects with working-class whites and older voters; on the minus side: Nothing spells Establishmentarian -- in an anti-Establishmentarian year -- sharper than the name Clinton. With all due respect to Vice President Joe Biden, who in all probability won't run for President in 2016 (he'd be 73 years old during the '16 campaign and would turn 74 between the November election and Inauguration Day), an Obama-Clinton ticket would be in the best interests of the party. And Biden, a class act of the Golden Age of the US Senate, has always looked after party interests first. Hillary Clinton is more valuable a political commodity in all-important Democrat strongholds like Ohio and Pennsylvania than Biden. And in places like West Virginia and Florida, the Clinton name is still, we cannot fail to note, golden.

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