Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hillary: The Game Changer?

Since we are probably on the eve of finding out who Barack Obama’s running mate will be, I thought I would engage in a little “what-if.” The conventional wisdom has been that, while Hillary Clinton would bring positives to Barack Obama’s campaign, especially in terms of attraction to women, her negatives would far outweigh those advantages.

The negatives are as follows:

Hillary is a very polarizing figure. She is loved by many but hated by many more.

Hillary has the potential to mobilize the Republican base like McCain never could. Many conservatives are ambivalent about McCain. That ambivalence was not eased by his flirtation with pro-choice candidates for Vice President. However, if you throw Hillary Clinton into the mix, Republicans will salivate at the opportunity to vote against another Clinton.

Trust. Could Barack Obama ever trust the Clintons? The short answer is no and Obama knows that. They still are concerned that the Clintons will take over the convention next week to make it about them (and incidentally, to sabotage Obama). Despite that mistrust, Obama, like many Democrats, fear the Clintons more than they hate them. That is shown by the degree to which Obama turned the convention over to them. A Vice President is in place to promote the President’s agenda. Obama could never trust the Clinton’s to put the interests of his administration over their personal interests.

These are industrial strength negatives.

However, I think it is still very possible that Obama will chose Hillary as his running mate. As long as Obama was running high in the polls and seemed to be the presumptive (key word) winner, he had no need of the Clintons. Add to that the bad blood that developed during the primaries and you have an Obama who wants nothing to do with Hillary or her husband.
However, in politics, last month can be ancient history. Obama is no longer the heir-apparent to the mantle of the Presidency. His resume has been weighed in the balances by many people and found wanting.

John McCain’s attacks have struck home and shown Barack Obama for what he is, a well-spoken candidate with a lot of vague promises and virtually no experience with which to back it up. Obama's poll numbers are coming down and his negatives are rising. McCain’s attacks have forced Obama to counterattack and that is not to Obama’s favor because it undermines his only strength…the positive image he has developed.
In short, the trends are running against Obama and he knows it. He needs something, or someone, to change the game. That someone could be Hillary Clinton.

Hillary would infuse new excitement into Obama’s campaign. Her presence would do much to heal the rift that still remains between her supporters and Obama's. To top it off, you would have the Clintons spitting out the tent instead of into it, thus following Sun-tzu's dictum, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

I also suspect that most Republican strategists would much rather run against Obama-Bayh or Obama-Biden than Obama-Clinton. Hillary's addition to the campaign has the potential to "flip the field" on McCain just as he is gaining traction.

I admit that this is extreme much so that I'm not even predicting this will happen. However, I would not be surprised either.

We'll all wait and see.

--Submitted by B. Bryant

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