The Campaign Spot

Hillary Reacts to the State of the Union; “Would Like to Figure Out If” She Can Win Over GOP Voters

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on MSNBC to offer her response to the President’s State of the Union address. Highlights, such as they are:
On bipartisanship:

“[The President] mentioned a few issues, like energy independence and health care, where we are eager to work towards some kind of bipartisan result. 

So, let’s see what happens.  I mean, the proof is in the pudding.”

On Iraq:

OLBERMANN: In a backwards kind of way, and in an unexpected kind of way, did the president not spend enough time talking about Iraq tonight? 

CLINTON:  Well, actually, Keith, I think he made his whole defense of Iraq, because he started by linking it to the war on terror, which all of us support.  And I have been, you know, adamant that we have to be more effective and smarter in going after the bad guys who are after us.

And he certainly tried to once again summon the Congress and the country to see his version of reality. 

I don’t think it’s going to sell.  I think that a majority of Democrats and a sizable number of Republicans are turning against this policy of escalation, not because we don’t want to fight the war on terror—in fact, we want to fight it smarter and better—but because it is only a slice of a strategy.

On Bush attending the Democratic retreat, and potential support for Hillary among Republicans: 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Senator, of the fact that the president has decided to go down to Williamsburg in a week or so and actually join the House Democrats.


MATTHEWS:  You are laughing. OK, this is a personal question.  Would you accept an invitation if the Republicans invited you to their retreat? 

CLINTON:  Absolutely, in a New York minute, Chris.  I think it’s a great invitation.  I’m glad the president accepted. 

You know, some of these things may be ritualistic.  You know that.  You have been in this town a lot longer than I have.  But I think it also does at least show respect for the process.  We need to get back to working with each other and, you know, pursuing some common means toward getting results for our constituents and our country. 

So, I’m glad that the president was invited.  And I’m delighted that he is going. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you can retail those Republicans into voting for you?


CLINTON:  Well, I got some of them in New York.  I would like to figure out if I could get a few more. 

Hillary Clinton did increase her performance in the 2006 elections, running against anemic competition. A common perception about her 2000 performance was that she did fairly well in working-class, Republican-leaning, culturally conservative upstate New York, but the New Republic went back and found she hadn’t done terribly well, and this was against Rick Lazio, a nice enough Congressman, but not exactly an electoral juggernaut.

Even in this less-than-hostile terrain, Clinton’s performance hasn’t been that spectacular. She actually lost upstate by three points to her 2000 opponent, Rick Lazio. And that’s despite the fact that Lazio entered the race late–after Rudy Giuliani dropped out in May–and then wasted further time downstate trying to catch up to Clinton’s fund-raising. That’s despite the poor judgment on display when the Long Island native introduced himself to upstate voters with an ad of himself walking on the beach. (Don’t bother with your atlas: Upstate has no ocean beaches.) And that’s despite the debate debacle, when Lazio ticked off upstate voters–particularly those who were unemployed–by declaring that the ailing upstate economy had already “turned the corner.” 

Though Clinton didn’t beat her opponent upstate, it could be argued that she did fairly well there by the standards of Democratic Senate candidates. She gained two points over Moynihan in 1994 and four points over Chuck Schumer in 1998. But previous candidates didn’t spend nearly as much time upstate as she did…

But, while Clinton may have done all right upstate for a Democratic Senate candidate, she didn’t do that well compared with Democratic presidential contenders. Al Gore and John Kerry both won upstate with 49 percent of the vote, compared with Clinton’s 46 percent. Where Clinton won ten upstate counties, Gore took 18 and Kerry 14. Although voters may base their choice for president on different criteria than they use for picking statewide candidates, Clinton was never like other statewide candidates. From the start, she was a national figure.

Well, as long as the Republicans nominate 2006 senatorial candidate John Spencer as their presidential candidate next year, Hillary will do fine.


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