The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

A Hillary 2012 Bid Is No Less Implausible Than Any Other Surprise in Politics


From the last Jolt of the week:

It is October. Somebody wake up the band Green Day; September has ended.

The First In-Kind Donation to Hillary 2012 Comes From Gallup

I, for one, admire the cahones of Gallup to conduct a poll that you know will generate some chilly looks between the President and secretary of State at the next cabinet meeting.

The pollster informs us, “If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were to challenge President Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2012, she would currently have the support of 37% of Democrats nationally, while 52% would support Obama . . . Obama’s strengths among Democrats in the hypothetical matchup with Clinton lie with college graduates and liberals, the latter of whom make up about 36% of this sample of 859 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Clinton does better among less well-educated Democrats and bests Obama among conservatives, who make up 22% of Democrats. Clinton does slightly better among women than among men.”

The 37 number is less surprising than the 52 number. Barely half of Democrats are certain they want Obama running for reelection in 2012?

A lot of right-of-center bloggers are skeptical of this scenario ever coming to pass; I’ll get to their objections in a second. But for a moment, let’s just realize that we’ve learned in the past decade or so that American politics can unbelievably unexpected turns rapidly. The president can get caught having sex with an intern; the presidential race can come down to a couple hundred votes and hanging chads in Florida; the New York skyline can be suddenly and horrifically altered with thousands dead; the hated dictator who gassed the Kurds can turn out to not have stockpiles of WMDs, the world’s most wanted terrorist can pop up the Friday before an election to offer an ultimatum; a Florida congressman can get caught doing unspeakable things with House pages; within five years an unknown state senator from Chicago with an unpronounceable name can become the leader of the free world, beating in succession two of the biggest names in American politics.

Hillary Clinton will say, a million times, that she’s no longer interested in running for president, that she likes her current job, that it is plenty challenging, etcetera. And by and large, she’s been a good soldier for the past two years. But it’s really hard to believe that every last drop of the desire to be president left her in summer of 2008, and you wonder if she keeps Bill up lamenting, “He’s just like I said he was. He’s so unprepared for all of this. He’s never dealt with rejection and adversity on a scale like this. Remember the 3 a.m. ad? Remember the Saturday Night Live parody of the 3 a.m. ad?”

“Hillary, it is 3 a.m.”

“And somewhere, a phone is ringing, Bill! And I should have been the one answering it!”

Will it happen? Probably not. But the likelihood is now more than zero, and each poll like this showing rank-and-file Democrats surprisingly “meh” on Obama moves it one notch further away from zero. Hillary won’t do it if she doesn’t think she can win, and won’t do it unless she can plausibly argue that the party’s grassroots wants her to. She’s not there . . . yet.

By the way, notice all the easy jokes about what Bill Clinton is doing at 3 a.m. that I avoided.

Tags: Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton


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