|Is it Hillary Time ?|
Fox News has polled likely GOP primary voters six times in the last five months. Here’s Mitt Romney’s trend line of support: July 17-19, 26 percent; August 7-9, 26 percent; August 29-31, 22 percent; September 25-27, 23 percent; October 23-25, 20 percent; November 13-15, 22 percent. Not a tidal wave of irresistibly rising acclamation.
Nor has Romney always been in the lead. In three of the four most recent polls, he’s trailed another candidate. The good news for Romney—the very good news for Romney—is that it’s been a different person each time. Rick Perry, who was at 29 percent at the end of August, has collapsed to 7 percent in the latest survey. Herman Cain, who polled at 24 percent a month ago, is now at 15 percent. If Newt Gingrich, who now edges Romney out at 23 percent, follows in the path of Perry and Cain (and Michele Bachmann, to some degree, before them), then Romney may well win as the last man standing.
And the massive fact of the race so far is that, as various candidates have shed supporters, those voters have looked for someone to go to other than Romney. One could almost say they’re going out of their way not to go to Romney. That could well change, of course. Romney will have the resources and the standing to make his case forcefully to these voters. And Romney defeats President Obama in the latest Fox poll, 44-42, while Gingrich trails, 46-41. That will be an important point in Romney’s favor among GOP primary voters eager to defeat the president. Can Gingrich come close to evening the poll results in the Obama matchup? That’s something to watch for. And more generally, can he rise to the occasion as a co-frontrunner, or will he fumble the ball? Will his famous baggage just prove too heavy? Who knows? We don’t think the inevitable answer is yes.
And even if Gingrich fades, let’s not assume it’s over. Bachmann and Santorum could still have a run in Iowa. If they continue to trail badly, it’s not out of the question that someone else could still present himself in mid-December to the citizens of Iowa (Hi there, Mike Huckabee! Hello, Sarah Palin!). Or, if Iowa (January 3), New Hampshire (January 10), and South Carolina (January 21) produce fragmented results, and the state of the race is disheartening to Republicans, a late January entry by another candidate isn’t out of the question, either. Couldn’t Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio win the January 31 Florida primary as a write-in candidate in such circumstances ?
Meantime, Fred Barnes argues that Newt's "baggage” is not enough, per se, to deny him the GOP's presidential nomination, or even the presidency. Barnes' thesis is as follows:
In 1980, when Ronald Reagan emerged as the likely Republican presidential nominee, President Carter’s advisers were thrilled. They’d done extensive opposition research. By pointing to what Reagan had said in speeches, radio commentaries, newspaper columns, and conversations, they assumed it would be easy to characterize him as a right-wing extremist. And enough voters would reject him and reelect Carter.
They were wrong. It wasn’t that voters ignored Reagan’s offbeat comments. They just didn’t think eccentric statements he’d made over the years were important. Bigger things were at stake, like Soviet aggression and a stagnant economy. And Reagan had better answers than Carter.A similar phenomenon occurred in 2003 when Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for California governor in a recall election. The media dredged up stories of his chronic groping of women. Voters, intent on ousting Governor Gray Davis, didn’t care. Schwarzenegger won and was reelected in 2006.Republicans figured that once voters learned of President Clinton’s White House trysts with intern Monica Lewinsky and dalliances with other women, they’d turn on him and give Republicans a big victory in the 1998 midterm elections. Instead, Clinton’s popularity held steady, and Republicans lost five House seats.
The point is this: Gingrich probably has at least as good a chance of getting a pass on his various transgressions in 2012 as Reagan, Schwarzenegger, and Clinton did. If 2012 were an ordinary election year, Gingrich would be doomed by his gaffes, three marriages, and fleeting alliances with Hillary Clinton on health care and Nancy Pelosi on global warming. But 2012 is different. Republicans are fixated on defeating President Obama. They’re obsessed. They think about little else. And if that means choosing a candidate with a lurid past and a penchant for self-destruction to beat Obama, Republicans are likely to swallow hard and nominate Gingrich.
In their hearts, Republicans have always wanted a candidate who is bold and tough, and Gingrich is. They’re not sure about Mitt Romney, who is cautious, conventional, and sounds more conciliatory than Gingrich. There’s a reason Romney’s support has been stuck for months at roughly a quarter of the Republican electorate. His blandness explains it. Gingrich is anything but bland.
Gingrich turns out to be a shrewd analyst of himself and his prospects. He has told friends he’s like Richard Nixon, not particularly likable and hated by the press and the left. He’s hardly a perfect candidate, but against a weak field, he can win the nomination and beat Obama in a tight race. And by the way, he’s the best of the bunch in connecting with the populist yearnings and resentments of average Americans.
Months ago, Gingrich foresaw his emergence as the chief rival to Romney. No one else did. The expectation was that Romney would face a challenger from the right. Gingrich, associates say, may be slightly to the left of Romney. It’s hard to tell. We won’t know for sure unless the two go head-to-head after the Republican field shrinks in January.And now, for "The Hillary Moment ". In THE NEW YORK TIMES, Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen submit that since "President Obama can't win by running a constructive campaign, and he won't be able to govern if he does win a second term", he should give up on a second term, making way for Hillary Clinton to run !
When Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson accepted the reality that they could not effectively govern the nation if they sought re-election to the White House, both men took the moral high ground and decided against running for a new term as president. President Obama is facing a similar reality—and he must reach the same conclusion.
He should abandon his candidacy for re-election in favor of a clear alternative, one capable not only of saving the Democratic Party, but more important, of governing effectively and in a way that preserves the most important of the president's accomplishments. He should step aside for the one candidate who would become, by acclamation, the nominee of the Democratic Party: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Never before has there been such an obvious potential successor—one who has been a loyal and effective member of the president's administration, who has the stature to take on the office, and who is the only leader capable of uniting the country around a bipartisan economic and foreign policy.
Certainly, Mr. Obama could still win re-election in 2012. Even with his all-time low job approval ratings (and even worse ratings on handling the economy) the president could eke out a victory in November. But the kind of campaign required for the president's political survival would make it almost impossible for him to govern—not only during the campaign, but throughout a second term.
Put simply, it seems that the White House has concluded that if the president cannot run on his record, he will need to wage the most negative campaign in history to stand any chance. With his job approval ratings below 45% overall and below 40% on the economy, the president cannot affirmatively make the case that voters are better off now than they were four years ago. He—like everyone else—knows that they are worse off.
One year ago in these pages, we warned that if President Obama continued down his overly partisan road, the nation would be "guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it." The result has been exactly as we predicted: stalemate in Washington, fights over the debt ceiling, an inability to tackle the debt and deficit, and paralysis exacerbating market turmoil and economic decline.
Even though Mrs. Clinton has expressed no interest in running, and we have no information to suggest that she is running any sort of stealth campaign, it is clear that she commands majority support throughout the country. A CNN/ORC poll released in late September had Mrs. Clinton's approval rating at an all-time high of 69%—even better than when she was the nation's first lady. Meanwhile, a Time Magazine poll shows that Mrs. Clinton is favored over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 17 points (55%-38%), and Texas Gov. Rick Perry by 26 points (58%-32%).
But this is about more than electoral politics. Not only is Mrs. Clinton better positioned to win in 2012 than Mr. Obama, but she is better positioned to govern if she does. Given her strong public support, she has the ability to step above partisan politics, reach out to Republicans, change the dialogue, and break the gridlock in Washington.
By going down the re-election road and into partisan mode, the president has effectively guaranteed that the remainder of his term will be marred by the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity, common purpose, and most of all, our economic strength. If he continues on this course it is certain that the 2012 campaign will exacerbate the divisions in our country and weaken our national identity to such a degree that the scorched-earth campaign that President George W. Bush ran in the 2002 midterms and the 2004 presidential election will pale in comparison.
We write as patriots and Democrats—concerned about the fate of our party and, most of all, our country. We do not write as people who have been in contact with Mrs. Clinton or her political operation. Nor would we expect to be directly involved in any Clinton campaign.
If President Obama is not willing to seize the moral high ground and step aside, then the two Democratic leaders in Congress, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, must urge the president not to seek re-election—for the good of the party and most of all for the good of the country. And they must present the only clear alternative—Hillary Clinton.