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Hillary Won't Run

This column was written by Douglas MacKinnon.

Back in November 1999, I wrote a column for the San Francisco Examiner in which I basically guaranteed that Hillary Clinton would not run for the Senate in New York. I laid out a very clever rationale for why she would not enter the race, the main thrust being that her candidacy was really just a red herring devised to deflect attention from her husband's mounting ethical problems.

I was so sure of my pet theory that I proceeded to make lunch and dinner bets with any number of people in Washington. Bets that, to this day, I am still paying off.

So with that lesson well learned, I am here to say that Senator Hillary Clinton will not run for president in 2008. Guaranteed. Why? Because, from the Democratic party's point of view, it makes no sense for her to run. I'm talking, none.

I am a Republican who happens to have a lot of Democratic friends. That's the way it goes when you come from Dorchester, Massachusetts. And what most of these Democratic friends of mine tell me for private consumption is that their party is really, really, really desperate to win back the White House, and in their minds, for that to happen, Hillary Clinton has to get out of the way.

Their rationale, not mine, is that they don't think enough Americans, especially American women, are actually going to vote for Senator Clinton in a general election. While I'm no fan of polls, a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll would seem to indicate that these Democratic friends of mine are on to something. When asked, only 16 percent of respondents said they would "definitely" vote for Hillary Clinton, while 51 percent said they would definitely not. She even lost in the poll to Condoleezza Rice, a woman who has made it crystal clear that she has no intention of running for president.

Next on the hit parade of things my Democratic friends worry about when it comes to Senator Clinton is that they really would like not to revisit the Whitewater, commodities, Monica, Lincoln Bedroom, Hillarycare days. Some of them worry, rightly in my opinion, that if Mrs. Clinton runs, all of this old, unpleasant, and somewhat unresolved baggage is going to be run on a loop by certain conservative, Christian, and even Democratic groups. The obvious question of these friends being: "Why should our party relive that pain?"

All Democrats I speak with on this subject, and even a surprisingly large number of Republicans, think 2008 is shaping up as a pretty good year for the Democrats to take back the White House. Part of their thinking is that even if you believe George W. Bush has been a great president (I do), and even if you really like the Republicans (I like some of them), the American people are suffering from "party in power fatigue." Namely, after eight years of Republicans in the White House, maybe it's time to send in the other team.

So, before the race even starts, one could build a case that the Democrats have a bit of a head start. Why aren't the Democrats I speak with happy about that news? Because they feel that if Hillary is the one carrying the baton in the general election, then she's going to collapse and get lapped by even a mediocre Republican.

Another question my Democratic friends fret about: Is Hillary enough of a team player to let someone like former governor (southern governor, they always say) Mark Warner of Virginia become the standard-bearer of her party? While they seem to think that she is too selfish to entertain such a thought, I'm prepared to give her more credit than that. I think, after doing the math, and calculating what's best for her in the long run, she will decide to forgo the race and wave her pom-poms from the sidelines.

She will do this, but, of course, not without exacting a steep price. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but heavier still will be the Democratic head that has to broker the deal with Hillary to have her put her party before her lofty ambitions.

Come November 2008, Senator Clinton will be 61 years of age ? 16 years older than when her husband took office, but still young enough politically to make one or two more runs at the Oval Office. So, at least, will go the argument from various Democrats in the smoke-free, racially diverse, politically correct back rooms from which they plot these days against the evil GOP.

What will they offer the woman from Chicago who thought New York seemed like a nice state to represent in the Senate? I've heard, again from my Democratic buddies who will henceforth all deny knowing me, that secretary of state in the first Warner administration might be an acceptable offer. A fine r?sum? builder for a future race. Upon hearing that, I asked them, "Why not just put Hillary on the ticket as his vice presidential candidate?"

After a few tsk, tsk's, and some shakes of the head, they remind me that they would actually like to win the 2008 election. Let me stress again that this is all coming from loyal, albeit desperate, Democrats. Their feeling still being that Hillary at the top or bottom of the ticket will doom them to four more years of doing without White House cufflinks and not being invited to state dinners and presidential Christmas parties.

That said, they don't rule out that Hillary is powerful enough, tough enough, and smart enough to work out a deal where she would be named vice president late in the first term or early in the second term of a Warner (or fill-in-the-blank) presidency.

I, for one, happen to think Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is highly intelligent and factors almost every decision she makes on how it will frame and then cement her place in history. Denying her party a realistic chance to win back the White House is not posterity-friendly.

It takes a village idiot to bet that Hillary won't run in 2008, and I'm that idiot. Free lunches and dinners will be paid in 2009.

Douglas MacKinnon was press secretary to Senator Bob Dole. He is also a former White House and Pentagon official.
By Douglas MacKinnon©

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