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February 04, 2006

Can She Do "Positive?"

I just got done watching a tape of Hillary's sit-down interview with Jane Pauley at the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco. The event was held on January 28th and sponsored by the San Francisco Bar Association. I've never forced myself to listen to Hillary for as long as I did tonight. It was difficult.

The substance of what she said was unremarkable, except for one outrageous statement. She would have us believe that President Bush is deliberately trying to prevent the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast in order to stop democratic voters from returning to the area. Naturally, the fellow travelers in the audience ate that craziness up. Pauley was only there to suggest topics for Hillary to pontificate on, not to challenge any logical inconsistencies in what her guest of honor might say.

Otherwise, Hillary's chat was a real snooze-fest. Her great handicap is the opposite of Bill's great strength. She is simply not a very charismatic person in public. She can do the subtle-cynical dig well enough for a sophisticated an admiring audience of San Francisco lawyers. She can do the criticism thing. She can do sarcasm and condescention. She can be a pompous know-it-all too. But can she do the "positive" thing?

I hate the positive thing myself. But that's because I ― like you, and like the people in the audience at the Masonic ― am a very sophisticated political junkie. We all have a well developed sense of irony and cynicism, which we either supress or put to use as needed, in service of our chosen party.

Of course, presidential elections are not won or lost by the votes of sophisticates like us. In this country, it's the wobbly middle 20% of voters who decide elections. Those folks who can't be bothered to decide until the last minute respond best to a focused, positive message, often repeated.

The simple positive message worked for Kennedy in '60, Carter in '76, Reagan in '80 and '84, and Bush in 2000 and 2004. Guys who couldn't deliver the simple positive message include Stevenson, McCarthy, Ford, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry. In 1980, Carter lost the ability to present that kind of message after he had fucked up the country so badly.

I think Hillary will have a hard time with the "positive" thing. She'll raise money alright, and she'll have large cheering crowds wherever she goes. Actually, the cheering crowds and the money are part of the problem for any Democrat today. It's easy to get the money and applause by negativity and vitriol, but then they forget the positive and upbeat mesages that win elections.

Keep in mind that wobbly 20% when you hear the press and the polls telling you how great Hillary's doing two years from now. Hillary can re-work her image only so much. I don't think you can learn charisma, and she's constitutionally incapable of being pleasant or upbeat, let alone positive. But then, she's a Democrat, and her party has completely abandoned positive ideas in favor of unfocused negativity.

Posted by annika, Feb. 4, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


Yes, there's that. There's also the fact that Hillary's a woman. And there are still people in this country who just aren't going to vote for a woman for president. Do enough of 'em vote to make a difference? It all depends. But all else being equal, I'll bet that a woman in W's place in '00 would've lost soundly.

She's hated by a significant proportion of the population. She's not positive. She's not charismatic. And she's a she.

The way things are going, Hillary may be the Republicans' best chance for a win in '08.

Posted by: Matt on Feb. 4, 2006

Like I have said. over and over; a woanmust be on the ticket to win in '08.

Will Condi take second palce to mcCain? I hope so, because we win in walk, no matter if they put up Jesus and Mary.

Unless of course, they display a cartoon of Mohammed with a turban with a bomb in it...

Posted by: shellu on Feb. 4, 2006

Shit Matt, you need a dose of political reality. Having ovaries is worth 5% of the vote out of the gate. Any political pro will tell you that. That's why we get such vacuous ninny women in office. If Hillary had a dick, her audience would be VERY small.

Shelly is overly excited.

Posted by: Casca on Feb. 4, 2006

Actually, I think all of this attention on Hillary is misguided. Unlike the Republicans, who telegraph their candidate years in advance (the last exciting Republican primary season was in 1976, for Christ's sake), the Democrats NEVER nominate their early frontrunner.

Notice how Symington beat Kennedy in '60? How McCarthy beat Humphrey in '68? Muskie beat McGovern in '72? Hart beat Mondale in '84? Tsongas beat Clinton in '92? I didn't think you did.

Of course, I have an unconventional view of who the nominee will be, and have for three years.

I predict that Al Gore has been doing a lot of reading up on Richard Nixon and will be the 2008 Democratic nominee, probably with Obama on the undercard.

He's positioned perfectly vis-a-vis the war to kill every single sitting senator who "voted for it being voting against it" in the primaries, which are way to the left of the general electorate. And then he can go before the country at the convention and argue that he actually WON eight years earlier. It'll be a pretty compelling story, too. Particularly if the President's numbers don't go up in a HUGE way between now and then.

Not only will Gore pick up most of his 2000 support, he's also likely carry the Dean and Nader people as well. If he's learned any lessons at all from 2000, he'll be a formidible candidate, particularly without Monica Lewinsky tugging at his fly.

And the Republican primaries will be open warfare, with everyone trying to tear down McCain and Giuliani. George Allen might come up the middle, but the Jesus wing is crazy enough and powerful enough to nominate a Brownback/Santorum ticket. Even if they do the smart thing and nominate McCain, he might be so damaged by the primaries that Gore eats his lunch.

Take Hillary out of the equation (and no one's ever named 10 states she can WIN), and this becomes a very close election.

Posted by: skippystalin on Feb. 5, 2006

Al Gore, Mr Sore Loser himself? Yeah, right. He was such a class act in 2000 that the nation will put up with a do over?

The Dems could do worse, because Jimmy Carter is technically eligible, but otherwise I'm hard pressed to see how. Hillary, whom I loathe, at least pretends to be human.

Posted by: MarkD on Feb. 5, 2006

Gore has one unsurmountable problem.

He has been saying some very outrageous things especially in Europe. Plus there was a long period of time when he wore that crazy beard. All those speeches have been saved by people who would run against him,

Put all that together in a series of commercials and Gore could be made to appear insane.

Posted by: Jake on Feb. 5, 2006

Annie, you call it a positive thing; I call it likeability. Voters have to like you or they won't vote for you no matter what your qualities. I don't think likeability can be learned.

Bush always rated really high in likeability in every election he has ever been in. The voters did not like Gore or Kerry and that is why they lost.

Even Hillary's great supporters will admit she is not likeable and that is why she cannot win.

Posted by: Jake on Feb. 5, 2006

Gore? I think Skippy is joking. He may run, but they'll never nominate him. He pissed off too many people in 2000. Besides, people know he IS mentally unbalanced.

I'm not ready to predict a Hillary nomination. Anything can happen in the next two years. But as I sit here right now, Clinton Obama looks like the best bet.

Likability and "the positive thing" are related concepts. Compare Condi. Rice throws Clinton's weakness into sharp relief. Both are intellectuals and both are considered extremely intelligent by the public. (In Hillary's case, undeservedly so.) Since both are women, you cancel out any voter prejudice. But Rice is likable and she can give a positive rah rah speech without screeching. (I might add, incidentally, that her hand gestures are more natural than Clinton's which are annoying and look forced.) Condi presents herself as rational and confident. Clinton presents herself as scorned and bitchy. Condi only lacks experience in public, which could hurt her, but she's been practicing.

That said, I am on record as believing that Condi doesn't want to run, and probably won't. I'm also not sure that PhDs make the best presidents.

Posted by: annika on Feb. 5, 2006

I think Skippy is serious about Gore. Like him, I'm not so concerned about the social issues now. I just want a candidate that is a hawkish, fiscal conservative in the White House.

If McCain can stop being a "maverick" (liberal media whore) before the race, I won't have any second thoughts voting for him in '08. I won't mind voting for Giuliani just as long as he doesn't advocate overturning the partial-birth abortion ban that hasn't even been enforced yet.....


Then again, the Dems' candidate would put more of those obstructionist assholes on the federal bench.

Posted by: reagan80 on Feb. 5, 2006

Who the fuck is masquerading as reagan80? Those guys are anathema to Reagan & the Reagan legacy. Ron ran against Pat's "Blue Hair & Bloody Mary Crowd".

It's just too early to start gaming '08. At this point it could be Boehner. He's an insider who talks like an outsider, and if you saw him on FNS today...

Posted by: Casca on Feb. 5, 2006

"Those guys are anathema to Reagan & the Reagan legacy."

You're mostly right, Casca. However, Bush Jr. hasn't really been a good spiritual successor to Reagan either. He seems like he's got more in common with Nixon (never vetoed Dems' spending) and Teddy Roosevelt (expanded gov't, economic meddling). Bush still retains the Republicans' edge over the Democrats on national security and foreign policy issues though. Plus, he gets an "A for effort" regarding Social Security reform and for trying to preserve the tax cuts.

Despite advocating for the unconstitutional campaign finance reform, McCain still has an American Conservative Union rating above 70 percent. Plus, he said recently that he's pro-life and a conservative as opposed to being a "moderate".


However, McCain's fellow media whore, Lindsey Graham, has an ACU rating around 90 percent, so I don't know if I should take their ratings seriously. Hopefully, McCain isn't really a stealth liberal blowing wind up our asses.

Instead of being a liberal or "moderate" Republican, I prefer to think of Giuliani as a hawkish Libertarian. He's a fiscal conservative. He even tried to cut funding to a Brooklyn art exhibit for having offensive "Pi$$ Christ"-type displays.

If I can't get another Reaganite in the White House, I'd be comfortable with a hawkish Libertarian instead.

Posted by: reagan80 on Feb. 5, 2006

It's one thing to learn a few facts and think one knows the history, but as Kipling kippled, "The fool's finger wobbles back to the fire." Breaking the country club Republican stranglehold on the party was the first thing RR was about. McCain & Rudy won't make it through the primaries because they both repudiate the base no matter how they contort on their way to New Hampshire.

For what it's worth, in 1976 RR had the primary race stolen from him by the party whores who are with us always, who backed the incumbent Ford. Wrap your brain around that. RR and his appeal to conservatives almost unseated a sitting President in a primary. Of course the rest is history. Ford lost to possibly the worst President in our history, and it was the putrid weakness of Carter that fed the appeal for a strong RR. And launched him into an orbit that the slings of the media could not reach.

Posted by: Casca on Feb. 5, 2006

I agree with Annika that optimistic candidates win - esp optimistic candidates who know themselves - so they can survive the rigors and reputation tear-downs of the campaign. Optimistic candidates are looking forward to a bright future. Americans want to be led in that direction.

One of my favorite Reagan moments came when he was taking a couple of questions, and the media jumped out with "Tip O'Neill says x,y,z..." Reagan just smiled and affably waved his hand, saying - without saying it - "Aw, that's just Tip..." I loved that Reagan could get away with doing that kind of thing. Less positive, less affable politicians could not. I love Condi. I love Giuliani. But, damn, every time I listen to George Allen I want to rush onto the TV screen and kiss him on the lips. I think I'm in puppy love with George Allen.

Posted by: gcotharn on Feb. 5, 2006

Firstly, skippy is serious about Gore. The history and trending of the Democratic primary system bears me out on this, too.

As I noted earlier, Democrats NEVER nominate their early frontrunner. The last time they did was in 1956. Secondly, Gore can make an at least plausable argument that he actually won in 2000, a powerful argument to primary voters.

Has Gore been acting like a psychopath for the last five years? Yes, yes he has. But so has the grass roots of the Democratic Party. Primary voters are going to have a very hard time voting for a candidate who voted to authorize the war, which excludes everyone but Senator Fiengold and Governors Warner and Vilsack. Unfortunately, no one knows who they are. That leaves the anti-war field pretty much open to Gore.

Another Nixon analogy. After the '60 race (which Kennedy stole outright) and the '62 California race against Pat Brown, Nixon was seen as both a sore loser and a born one. But after George Romney immolated himself, Nixon was all that was left and he danced through the primaries against Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon also broke with the Goldwater/Republican orthodoxy on Vietnam and that served him very well in both the primaries and the general election. I think Gore's been studying all of the above.

It doesn't particularly matter if you like Gore (and I personally can't stand the motherfucker), but ignoring the possibility that he'll run for and win the nomination is dangerously stupid.

Not only has Hillary peaked way, way too early, she's becoming inceasingly unacceptable to the activist left of the party, which controls the primaries. If McCain and Giuliani get mauled in the Republican primaries, I assure you that the same happens to Hillary. And that's IF she runs, which I don't think she will.

The first primaries and caucuses of '08 aren't going to be in Iowa and New Hampshire. They'll be in DailyKos and Democratic Underground. Just watch, you'll see a lunatic nominee, and who better to nominate that a lunatic who got 500,000 more votes than the current President?

Posted by: skippystalin on Feb. 5, 2006

As to reagan80's point.

President Bush has about as much to do with President Reagan in terms of substance as Hugo Chavez does. Stylistically, Reagan and Bush 43 are similiar on the stump, but that's where it ends.

Reagan was a conservative and Bush doesn't even pretend to be. Bush is a populist, William Jennings Bryan with a better haircut.

I'm constantly amazed how conservatives keep holding President Bush to their bossoms as one of their own, when he's nothing of the kind. President Bush has done nothing with as much enthusiasm as he has gone about bankrupting the federal treasury with shiny, new entitlement spending programs and social engineering experiments like No Child Left Behind, which will have the effect of making American schools even worse than they already were. I vaugely remember a time when conservatives wanted to abolish the Department of Education. President Bush has doubled its budget.

This isn't conservatism, it's populism. Christ, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Bush doesn't give a "Cross of Gold" speech as his farewell address.

Posted by: skippystalin on Feb. 5, 2006

Skippy understands one thing. No mention of Williams Jennings Bryan is complete without a "Cross of Gold" reference!

Posted by: annika on Feb. 5, 2006


As I've said, I'd prefer a Reaganite over those two. If they piss off the NRA or something, then I don't want them to make it out of the primaries either. And, I know the NRA still loathes McCain for muzzling them with "campaign finance reform".


I agree that the GOP must become "Contract with America" purists again before they head back into the wilderness.

Posted by: reagan80 on Feb. 5, 2006

Skippy, did it ever occur to you, that a lot of us dont "hold Bush to our bosom" as much as we preffered him over anything the Dems had to offer.
Hillary is much to shrill to win
Condi wants to be NFL commisioner
McCain haas alienated most of the republican party.
Its not going to be any of the obvious ones for either party.

PS. Hold Bush to your bosom. that sounds kinda kinky.

Posted by: Kyle N on Feb. 5, 2006

Gore has a great deal of appeal to the more extreme elements of the Democratic Party, and that element wields a lot of influence right now in the form of money, exposure, and the volume of their "righteous indignation." However, I don't think the average Democrat out in Kansas, Arkansas, or even Florida is comfortable with someone who often appears to be a raving lunatic.

As a conservative, I am very worried about a Democratic ticket of Mark Warner and Evan Bayh. They are both relatively moderate in philosophy and appearance, well-spoken, and able to appeal to a broad spectrum of likely voters. They would be very attractive to voters in places like Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio, etc. I take comfort in the knowledge that the Democrats are probably too crazed and disorganized to nominate anyone that sensible, but it is a mistake to think there aren't sober, sensible people within the Party who understand the potential strength of such a ticket. Whether they will be drowned out by the current vitriolic extremists is the question.

Posted by: DBrooks on Feb. 6, 2006

Casca said,

"Having ovaries is worth 5% of the vote out of the gate. Any political pro will tell you that. That's why we get such vacuous ninny women in office."

In states that Hillary would win anyway, yes. But I'm not even close to convinced that's true in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, or a lot of other places. (The only woman senator from any of those four states is Kay Bailey Hutchison, with her lifetime 91 rating from the American Conservative Union and her B- from Gun Owners of America. She spoke at the most recent annual NRA Members Banquet. No whacky liberal, she.)

Posted by: Matt on Feb. 6, 2006

DBrooks is right: Warner would be dangerous. The guy did manage to get elected Governor of Virginia. Hell, under the right circumstances I could be tempted to vote for Warner.

Posted by: Matt on Feb. 6, 2006


If "likeability" is required to win elections, how do you explain Nixon? Hell, I'm not even sure Pat liked him.

You guys are onto something with the "Contract with America" thing; I agree it needs to be recycled and cleanse the GOP. Who better to do that than the guy who gave it to us in the first place? Newt in '08.

Posted by: shelly on Feb. 7, 2006

I'm not suggesting that Gore would win big at the dance, but he is good for the nomination. Yes, it would be incredibly smart to nominate Warner, because he could probably beat anyone the Republicans have, including McCain and Giuliani as they could both be tied closely to Bush.

But can anyone here name five smart things the Democrats have done in the last decade? Plus, there's always the possibilty that the Republicans could lose their minds and nominate a neandrathal like Brownback or Santorum, and I assure that Gore would slaughter either.

As you might be able to tell, I've pretty much given up on primary voters to do the smart thing anymore. '08 could very well end up being the Battle of the Network Retards.

Posted by: skippystalin on Feb. 7, 2006

"But can anyone here name five smart things the Democrats have done in the last decade?"

And, you don't understand why we keep holding President Bush to "our bossoms" as one of our own? Bush might not be the ideal conservative, but he makes the Leftists so incontinent and batshit crazy that it is easy to overlook his "diluted conservatism".

It's funny that the Left still demonizes the man that ended the draft and tried to get us out of Vietnam without a total defeat for our SVN ally. I'm not a big fan of Nixon since he did a lot of favors for the liberals' domestic agenda (I respected his reasoning though), but if I were around back in the day, I'd probably have wanted to have Nixon's baby (if I were a woman) after I saw how much the Left hated and demonized him.

Posted by: reagan80 on Feb. 7, 2006

Ovaries are worth 5 pts, all other things being equal. You've got to have someone willing to run, who has SOME credibility as a candidate. Perhaps you've all missed it, but Jimmy's son is running for the Senate seat against Ensign in Nevada, lol, should be good. I wonder if this is the same guy named "Chip" I believe, who was the driving force behind the "Good of the Service" discharge. No, no, it was automatic upgrading of GOS's. Joined the Navy, went to Canada, smoked dope and got caught... ring a bell?

Posted by: Casca on Feb. 7, 2006
Yes, there's that. There's also the fact that Hillary's a woman

Biggest myth of its whole phony image! ;-)

Posted by: Radical Redneck on Feb. 9, 2006

First, the Democrats - Bill Clinton was one of the most likable presidents of the 20th century, and (except for his Houseleader issues) relatively balanced (Carter drove him up a wall). Hillary functions well as a power behind the throne (kind of a Bobby Kennedy), but she may not get the nomination. I'm not ruling Gore out.

Regarding the Republicans - the difference between Goldwater, Reagan, and Dubya is that Goldwater was a conservative, Dubya is a neo-conservative, and Reagan was somewhere in between.

Posted by: Ontario Emperor on Feb. 10, 2006