A Newsweek poll released this weekend gives the damage report from the big Democratic pile-on last week, which saw the candidates chasing Hillary Clinton do their best to unhorse the Senator from New York with broadside after rhetorical broadside. The attacks were frequent and varied, confronting Clinton on her Iran resolution vote, her reluctance to make certain documents from her time as First Lady public, and her tendency to engage in “doubletalk.” So after absorbing a sustained, at times withering attack from her fellow Democratic candidates, how much damage was done to Hillary? According to the poll, not much.
In other news, an X-ray from Sen. Clinton’s recent medical examination has leaked. The Senator was revealed to be an indestructible robotic intelligence. [source: The New England Journal of Medicine]
Clinton retained her spot at the top, claiming 44% of the Democratic vote for the nomination, according to the poll. Barack Obama remains in second, with 24%, and actually lost a point from August. John Edwards and his pretty hair lost two points to slide to 12%. Which isn’t to say that the opposition didn’t try really hard – here are some of the haymakers thrown Hillary’s way:
Senator Clinton in her campaign, I think, has been for NAFTA previously, now she’s against it. She has taken one position on torture several months ago and then most recently has taken a different position. She voted for a war, to authorize sending troops into Iraq, and then later said this was a war for diplomacy. I don’t think that — now, that may be politically savvy, but I don’t think that it offers the clear contrast that we need. (Obama)
Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington, D.C. She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she’ll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that’s not ending the war; that’s the continuation of the war. (Edwards)
Well, I just listened to what Senator Clinton said, and she said she wanted to maximize pressure on the Bush administration. So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons? I mean, has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted. (Edwards)
We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history, and not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, as you’re making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem. (Obama)
I mean, another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is, Senator, she — they may actually want to run against you, and that’s the reason they keep bringing you up. (Edwards)
Whether it’s fair or not fair, the fact of the matter is that my colleague from — from New York, Senator Clinton, there are 50 percent of the American public that say they’re not going to vote for her. (Dodd)
And then of course there was the made-for-attack-ad flip-flop on New York Governor Elliot Spitzer’s drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants plan. No matter which way you cut it, Hillary Clinton got blitzed and driven to the turf several times last Tuesday, and yet when she left the field, her jersey looked like Tom Brady’s does most weeks – not a grass stain to be found. I’m a bit bewildered, as these were not your typical irresponsible, slash-and-burn, win-at-all-costs attacks, but rather some fairly substantive policy-related arguments. The vote in the Senate to label the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group can provide a pretext to go to war with Iran (though for the record, I don’t think we’ll do that no matter what – as a matter of simple logistics, the armed forces have been too depleted by Iraq, and air strikes would not have a decapitating effect, would turn the Iranian population firmly against us, and might lead Iran to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, and then hello, $8 a gallon oil). Clinton does have a record of staking out politically expedient positions and sounding awfully Republican at times, which ought to undercut her credibility as a true Bush alternative. And Clinton does have serious electability issues in the general round. Despite her rivals pointing all these out, Clinton emerged as the Teflon candidate.
So what does this mean? Well, first, you’re going to see her camp pushing the “inevitability” angle a lot more. But more interestingly, it might be time for the “politics of personal destruction” to slither into the race. If Hillary keeps her lead up, and the other candidates realize that going after her on substance, for whatever reason, isn’t working, they might decide it’s time to call in their hatchet men. This is where Hillary might be in serious trouble, because her shady past is a pretty deep well. There’s the ethically questionable Rose Law Firm, the Whitewater scandal, the Lincoln bedroom sleepovers for big donors, and absconding with White House (i.e. your) furniture in 1999 before she left for New York. Also, you may or may not be aware of this, but her husband is a bit of a skirt-chaser.
Democrats may have their minds made up already, and going negative can often backfire. However, when rivals make salient political arguments, arguments that Clinton doesn’t always answer very well, and nothing happens to her, you have to wonder – is Clinton really who the Democrats want, or is it simply possible that nobody’s paying attention?