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November 14, 2007

The Republicans Aren’t Going To Win Campaigning On Hillary-Hatred Alone

by Doug Mataconis

Today’s Washington Post has a front-page article detailing the Republican’s General Election Campaign strategy. It’s really not that hard to figure out if you’ve been paying attention —– vote for us, or you’ll get Hillary:

They mock her proposals, utter her name with a sneer and win standing ovations by ridiculing her ideas as un-American, even socialistic. She has become the one thing the Republican candidates for president can agree on.

Hillary Clinton.

Earlier this year, the senator from New York was the subject of an occasional laugh line from former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Now, the trickle has become a torrent as the leading GOP candidates seek to one-up one another in a Clinton-bashing contest aimed at energizing their party faithful.

(…)
In the first five GOP debates, stretching from early May to late September, the candidates and the moderators mentioned Clinton’s name eight times. During the first October debate, she came up 13 times. And at the Oct. 21 debate, she was the subject of conversation 29 times.

“You know, it’s interesting, the most, I guess, wonderful reaction we’ve had in this entire room is when Hillary’s name is mentioned,” noted former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee that night. “It gets louder than an Aerosmith concert.”

With less than two months until voting begins, the Democratic front-runner has become a target for rivals in her own party as well, prompting her husband, the former president, to accuse them of “Swift boat”-style piling-on during the latest debate.

As we get closer and closer to the primaries, and then beyond, you’re going to see more and more of this. On it’s face it would seem to make sense — after all, Hillary Clinton has the highest negative ratings of any of the Democratic candidates. But there’s one problem with the theory — and it’s evidenced by the fact that Clinton beats every Republican candidate in almost every head-to-head poll that’s been done.

As Reason Magazine’s David Weigel notes, conservatives who continue to rally around the “attack Hillary” meme are desperately trying to cover up the fact that their movement has run out of any credibility on the limited government agenda that brought them to power:

Nothing that conservatives can do to Hillary Clinton can fix the fractures in the movement or re-commit the voters who have abandoned them during the Bush era. Attacking Hillary is a short-term fix, a flawed strategy that Democrats tried only three years ago as they nominated a ticket with a muddled Iraq War position and tried to make up the difference with $300-million worth of third-party attacks. They never dealt with their internal crises, hoping that a campaign against Bush would be enough to win.

“I’d prefer these things be contests of ideas,” says Craig Shirley, a longtime political strategist who’s doing some work for Stop Her Now. “Our conservative, libertarian ideas are better than their collectivist ideas. But running on ideas, you know, that requires the people on our side to have the courage and intellect to understand what this is all about.”

(…)

Obviously, 2008 is not going to lack for anti-Hillary campaigns. There will be more books, more speculation about scandals, more digging into financial records—a treasure hunt for some silver bullet that will finally end her career. This is exactly what the Clinton campaign is ready for, and they’re in luck: the swing vote that will elect the next president is far angrier at Republicans and George W. Bush than it is at her right now. It’s moved on. It wants to hear some new arguments.

Instead of new arguments and new energy, though, the GOP is getting ready to offer America the same old recycled rhetoric served with a side dish of over-the-top Clinton-bashing.

Something tells me it’s not going to work this time any better than it did in the Presidential elections in 1992 and 1996, or the New York Senate race in 2000.

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway


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