- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 21, 2010


As Democrats continue to attack and blame each other for their poor poll position heading into November’s elections, there is one dog that hasn’t barked: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

One year ago today, I wrote about her in these pages:

“As Mr. Obama grows increasingly vulnerable, his poll numbers slide, the economy worsens, and our enemies take advantage of his weakness, she will take notes, keep a record, and then run against him [in 2012].”

I was the first to pose that theory last year, and a lot of people scoffed. Now, many folks are picking it up.

The conditions I mentioned for a possible Hillary run have been bourne out. President Obama’s job approval numbers - on everything from his handling of the economy to his administration’s lawsuit against Arizona - are tanking. Polls routinely show that majorities of voters oppose his signature legislation, from Obamacare to the stimulus to financial regulatory reform. As a result, his party is gathered in a circular firing squad. Meanwhile, the economy is still shaky, while spending, unemployment, the deficit and debt, the southern border, the Gulf oil disaster and Afghanistan are out of control.

Mrs. Clinton is watching this with a keen eye. Her ambition to be president has not evaporated. She knows she’ll be too old to run again in 2016, so she’s starting to move now. Consider just some of the evidence:

c In most polls, Hillary has a 10- to 25-point favorability edge over Mr. Obama, and some show that voters now believe she’s more qualified to be president than he is.

c Mrs. Clinton cleverly kept her name out of the Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal debacle, even though her State Department people - ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and special envoy Richard Holbrooke - were deeply engaged in the infighting.

c She also deftly stayed quiet during the debate over Obamacare, sensing the public’s rejection of it.

c Clinton loyalist James Carville has blasted Team Obama for its mishandling of the Gulf oil spill and just released a poll showing that 55 percent of Americans think Mr. Obama is a socialist.

c Mrs. Clinton herself took a swipe at Mr. Obama recently, saying that foreign leaders are complaining to her that the U.S. economy is “in a ditch.”

c Her political team stays close as they run a foundation, No Limits, dedicated to burnishing her image, supporting her policy interests and maintaining her huge databases of political contacts.

c And then there’s her husband. Former President Bill Clinton has started to go rogue, endorsing Democratic candidates not preferred by the White House and offering very public - and contrary - advice on the oil spill.

Here’s the key to a 2012 Hillary run:

Mrs. Clinton knows that a lot of voters have buyer’s remorse about having chosen Mr. Obama. They regret dissing her for him, and they’ll want to make it up to her. She’ll exploit that brilliantly by creating the illusion that she’s the more responsible choice. She’ll position herself as the adult who can fix Mr. Obama’s messes. Her unsubtle message will be: “You had your fun on the Obama joyride, and now Mama is here to take the keys.”

She’ll offer herself as the safe harbor for disillusioned Democrats and others. The murmurs have already begun: “Hillary wouldn’t have been as bad as he is.” And notice: She’s neither discouraged that sentiment nor credibly denied that she’s running.

Of course, she believes in bigger government, socialized medicine and higher taxes, just as Mr. Obama does, which is why you need to know now how she’s going to run the game.

In 2008, Mr. Obama fooled legions of voters into thinking he was a moderate who would govern as a centrist. She’ll fool them again with the same faux “centrist” scam. After all, she’s described herself as a proud “modern progressive” who’s just as far left as he is. But she’s letting him get attacked as a socialist so she can look like she’s riding to the rescue. And for those who think she can’t win the primary without the black vote, recall that she beat Mr. Obama in late 2008 primaries by 30-40 points. She can build a different, winning coalition - all by fooling voters that she’s moderate, just as they were fooled by Mr. Obama.

She has one other big weapon in her comeback arsenal. She knows that a woman has the best chance to replace the first black president. As Shelby Steele, the author of “White Guilt,” says, many Obama voters didn’t actually want this kind of radical, big-government change. Rather, they simply wanted to document the change toward race that had already happened over the past five decades. For them, Mr. Obama was elected as much as a feel-good cultural figure as a political one.

Mrs. Clinton can play the same card on gender. Like Mr. Obama, she will peddle “change,” but this time, many voters may want to document that we have risen above gender inequality. She will cast herself as another “first” about whom those same voters can get excited. And by subliminally reminding people of the budget surpluses and relative peace and prosperity of the Clinton years, she’ll offer a no-regrets alternative to independents who might otherwise lean Republican.

This is how Mrs. Clinton will run the table, starting after the midterm elections. Mr. Obama has tried appeasing the Clintons with big jobs, campaign trail gigs and White House confabs. He - like the rest of us - should heed Winston Churchill’s warning: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

Monica Crowley is a nationally syndicated radio host, a panelist on “The McLaughlin Group” and a Fox News contributor.

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