Look, this is happening. It's a thing. Remember the jokes that started in 1992 with "two Clintons for the price of one"? Remember the incredulity of people in 1999 when it was quietly suggested that the first lady of the United States might decamp to New York and place a Senate seat into her carpet bag? Remember when it was only the crazies who said, "Don't you get it? She's trying to run for president!"
Well, here we are.
As always, I'm more bullish on her prospects than a lot of my conservative friends. My buddy Mollie Hemingway, for instance, thinks that Hillary isn't as strong as people assume. She argues that Clinton has no accomplishments, is a liar, lacks her husband's political gifts, and hasn't won a single tough election.
But while each of those charges is true, I see them very differently. Clinton is loads more accomplished than, say, Barack Obama was in 2008. And things worked out pretty well for him.
Does she have a track record of lying? Yes, but she lies about relatively petty subjects tied to her own political viability. As I argued a couple weeks back, would you rather have a president who lies about her email protocols, or a president who knowingly lies to voters on issues of enormous import during the course of a contentious public debate in order to thwart the will of the people? Which is worse: "I didn't delete any emails" or "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan"? Compared with Obama, Clinton's lies are almost charming.
It's true that Clinton has lost the only tough election she's faced. But people forget that she actually got more votes than Obama in the Democratic primaries. And as for her gifts as a politician, while it's true that she's not especially charismatic or intuitive, I think it's also undeniably true that she's tough, gutsy, and adaptable.
I spent a good part of the winter of 2008 following Clinton and Obama across the country, and it's easy to forget how strong the headwinds were against her. By January Obama had the money, the establishment, and the media all on his side. After Iowa, Hillary was forced to reinvent herself as a populist underdog, and she did so with remarkable effectiveness. She kept fighting and coming back from the dead.
After Iowa, she came from behind to win in New Hampshire. After Super Tuesday, the Obama campaign claimed victory was inevitable and the bottom fell out of Hillary world. She had to lend her own campaign $5 million. But then she won Texas and Ohio in early March. Obama kept padding his delegate advantage with small-state caucus wins and super delegates while Clinton got a preview of what life would be like for John McCain in the general election as the media and money went crazy for Obama. And what did Clinton do in the face of this? She won six of the last nine primaries.
And again-this bears repeating—she crossed the finish line with more votes than Obama.
Hillary Clinton isn't a natural. But she's a grinder and she's tough. You disrespect her grit at your own peril.
This isn't to say that she's inevitable. Her candidacy does present exploitable weaknesses for a bold opponent. But she's going to be trickier to attack than you might think.
For example, Adam White has a look back at how James Carville described President George H. W. Bush in 1992 in the War Room. "The idea is, he reeks of yesterday," Carville says. "He has the stench of yesterday. He is so yesterday, if I think of yesterday, if I think of an old calendar, I think of George Bush's face on it."
And boy, howdy, does Hillary Clinton reek of yesterday, too.
But the Clinton campaign never "attacked" Bush for being yesterday's news. They realized that voters liked the president and respected him. So they took a more nuanced approach. Here's Paul Begala describing the line they took in his fascinating conversation with Bill Kristol: