Hillary's Secret Weapon
Republican loathing may make her the next president.

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, February 25, 2005

Only 1,348 days until the presidential election, and Hillary Clinton is looking like the front-runner. In part this is because she's the only runner (other than John Kerry, who seems to think he's still challenging President Bush). The diminished Democrats have a weak bench, and while the GOP has a surfeit of plausible candidates, there's no heir apparent to Mr. Bush.

Sen. Clinton has been staking out a position as a moderate, especially on foreign policy. On Sunday she appeared on "Meet the Press" from Baghdad, where she praised the Iraqi elections, opposed a precipitous U.S. withdrawal, and laid out a doctrine of "vigorous engagement" in the world. This is heartening to those of us who have been troubled by the Democratic Party's hard-left isolationist turn since 2002.

It's also smart politics. Unlike Republicans, Democrats win the White House only when they run as moderates. Yet moderate views have sunk many a Democratic contender in the primaries. Just ask Joe Lieberman, who peaked last year with an 11% second-place showing in Delaware.

Hillary, however, has a secret weapon: Republican loathing. Right-leaning Web sites bristle with hostility for New York's junior senator, who once blamed a "vast right-wing conspiracy" for her husband's sex scandal. "Hil has no core values, except a love of as much power as she can get," says a typical post on "She is the most dangerous woman in the world." Such sentiments will make her attractive to her party's Angry Left base, which otherwise would find her positions on issues like Iraq objectionably reasonable.

They may help her in the general election, too. One reason Democrats failed to unseat President Bush was that they were blinded by their hatred for him. This made them overconfident, as they mistook their emotions for facts, assuming that because they couldn't stand him, he must be (as one candidate put it) a "miserable failure." They obsessed over nonissues (Halliburton, Mr. Bush's National Guard service), and they failed to realize that their totally negative campaign reflected badly on them, not on Mr. Bush. If Mrs. Clinton is the nominee in 2008, Republicans risk repeating these mistakes.

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