It seems we've been transported light years from the days when conservative Republicans were filling the airwaves, newspapers and books with attacks on the former First Lady and her husband. From cattle future fortunes to her failed health-care plan, from Rose Law Firm billing records to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, conservatives and Clinton carried on a decade-long battle.
Now, some conservatives are, well, almost singing her praises as Clinton competes to become the first woman ever to head a national presidential ticket. Even before last week's Democratic debate in South Carolina, radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was putting Clinton's chances of being the next president at 80%.
Following that event, Limbaugh was almost laudatory of her answer to a question about what her response would be to a massive terrorist attack on the United States. Clinton said she would retaliate against those responsible, leading Limbaugh to say, "you have to admit, folks, that answer is far more intelligent. In the last half of it she went astray, had to throw in the Bush bash for the base. I understand that, but 'move as swiftly as prudent to retaliate?' She's the only one on the dais last night that said this."
Conservative commentator and three-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan went even further following the debate, comparing Clinton favorably to Ronald Reagan for her response. As if all that weren't enough, conservative writer Bruce Bartlett took it to a whole new level in an opinion piece for National Review Online.
With current GOP chances in 2008 appearing dim overall at the moment, Bartlett wondered aloud if it might make sense for conservatives to dabble in the Democratic primary — on behalf of Clinton. He wrote: "At some point, politically sophisticated conservatives will have to recognize that no Republican can win in 2008 and that their only choice is to support the most conservative Democrat for the nomination. Call me crazy, but I think that person is Hillary Clinton."
Conservatives for Hillary — or a right-wing conspiracy to start making Democratic primary voters start to wonder what makes Clinton so appealing to the ideological enemy? It could be that these sudden praises reflect a desire on the part of conservatives to face he in the general election and a view that she is unelectable. If that's the case, conservatives might want to be careful what they wish for. Democrats prior to 1980 said the same about another supposedly divisive politician — Reagan. — Vaughn Ververs
Edwards Goes Viral: Democrat John Edwards has used President Bush's veto of the Iraq war spending bill to launch the first TV ads of his campaign. The ad shows people who disagree with Bush's veto and urge Congress to keep sending him the same bill.
But Edwards has picked a curious market for the start of his paid media campaign. Instead of airing ads in one of the early primary states, the campaign has bought air time in Washington, D.C., which isn't a key player in the 2008 primary process. The Edwards campaign says the ad is designed to speak to Congress, but its real purpose appears to be an attempt at viral marketing.
An e-mail to supporters announcing the ad makes it clear that the commercial is a vehicle for other things — namely, fundraising and building grassroots support. It includes an appeal to help the campaign raise $100,000 in 24 hours to cover the ad's cost, as well as giving people the chance to add their own message to Congress to the ad, and then post it online.
An Edwards aide, speaking on background, said persuading voters isn't the ad's point. In fact, the candidate's only presence in the spot is the typical 'I endorsed this message" blurb at the end. "The other dimension to this is that not only is it going to build our lists and going to build our online community, but also raise money, in a grassroots way," the aide told CBSNews.com. "We want to cut people into the ad, people standing in front of the [St. Louis] arch, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge." — David Miller
A League Of His Own: On Tuesday Republican John McCain unveiled a new foreign policy initiative, the League of Democracies. Basically, the organization would be a coalition of democratic nations from around the world — like NATO, but on a global scale.
"The new League of Democracies would form the core of an international order of peace based on freedom," McCain said. "It could act where the U.N. fails to act, to relieve human suffering in places like Darfur."
McCain says the organization wouldn't replace the U.N., but would instead complement it. The implication is that the group would have different rules of engagement than the U.N., which is very reluctant to send peacekeepers into an armed conflict. By definition, the league would also exclude Russia and China, who have used their veto power at the U.N. in the past to block initiatives favored by the United States.
Politically, the proposal also allows McCain to be like the current administration by eschewing the U.N., but also not be like the White House by placing an emphasis on international bodies and multilateral action.
The proposal could appeal to both moderates who want more diplomacy and conservatives who are wary of the U.N.. But by splitting the difference between those two factions, McCain's plan could just as easily push both groups away. — David Miller
Going Ga-Ga For Gravel: In the mainstream media (yes, that includes us), Democrat Mike Gravel has been portrayed as a fringe candidate, and a slightly crazy one at that, especially after his headline-grabbing performance at last week's debate in South Carolina.
But on the Internet, Gravel is a sensation — a refreshing face amid a sea of cookie-cutter candidates seen as typical politicians. On Digg.com, where users post links to articles and then let the rest of "Diggnation" determine which stories get the most exposure, the two top stories on the politics page in the past 24 hours are about Gravel. The comments below each link are overwhelmingly positive.
"I love this guy. He's refreshing. You can't help but get the impression that all the other candidates are grade school children compared to this guy," said one poster identified as run4ny.
In another popular corner of the Internet, Fark.com, one commenter said, "This guy has GOT to stick around. People would be LUCKY to have the opportunity to vote for a guy who displays this kind of honesty and courage."
In a posting on its site, the Gravel campaign says this wellspring of online support is responsible for pressuring CNN to invite Gravel to participate in an upcoming debate in New Hampshire. "This invitation is a direct result of the dedication and work of those of you who have stood up for this campaign in the last 72 hours," press secretary Shawn Alexander Colvin wrote.
This doesn't mean Gravel is going to move up in the polls. Many Internet sites are frequented by people with an anti-establishment, libertarian streak — the exact kind of people that are drawn to candidates like Gravel and Republican Ron Paul — but they don't make up a large chunk of the population.
However, it does look like Gravel got more than fleeting fame out of his debate appearance: He also got a base. — David Miller
Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.
By Vaughn Ververs and David Miller