The Hillary Questions; She Has to Take Only the States That John Kerry Took, and Then One More. (or the States That Al Gore Took, and the Supreme Court.)

Newsweek, October 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Hillary Questions; She Has to Take Only the States That John Kerry Took, and Then One More. (or the States That Al Gore Took, and the Supreme Court.)


Byline: Anna Quindlen

Will she run? can she win? the fact that virtually every American voter knows who the "she" is in those oft-repeated sentences means that name recognition will not be a problem if Hillary Rodham Clinton decides to try to become the first woman president of the United States.

Nor will certain key qualifications. It has become axiomatic (in this case because it happens to be true) that Senator Clinton is really smart. She has a sharp mind buttressed by an encyclopedic knowledge of key issues and a work ethic that is Calvinism on steroids. She also plays well with others, a surprise to those officials who confused celebrity with the tendency to be a prima donna. Although the looming presidential race will mean her Republican Senate colleagues once again feel obliged to stereotype her as the Tokyo Rose of the far-left insurgency, privately it's a different matter. She has cosponsored bills on both sides of the aisle. She does not hog the mike at press conferences. They like her, they really like her.

History shows that she is able to woo agnostics and even naysayers. That is how she wound up with a Senate seat in a state to which she had only recently moved. (In the carpetbagger department she was inoculated by Robert F. Kennedy, who didn't even have a home in New York when he was elected its junior senator.) She bested her opponent by 12 points because she won over some Republicans and independents and upstate residents. And she carried the women's vote by 60 percent, even though pundits loved to parrot anecdotal evidence suggesting women were put off by her decision to stand by her unfaithful husband. At the time, Gloria Steinem put it best: "I think women can tell the difference between their personal feelings and their political welfare."

A presidential election will test how many voters can make the distinction between feeling that Senator Clinton rubs them the wrong way and thinking that her considerable skills make her prime presidential timber. It's also expected to test whether Americans are ready for a female commander in chief. That may be less of an issue than conventional wisdom would suggest; the universe of those who would never elect a woman is a universe that significantly overlaps the hard-core Hillary haters. Thus her negatives may help neutralize her sex. And while the most persistent rap is that she's polarizing, all that really means is that she evokes strong feelings. Haven't voters long been suggesting that they would find that more compelling than the none-of-the-above choices they've been offered?

No, the biggest problem Senator Clinton may have is with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. …

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The Hillary Questions; She Has to Take Only the States That John Kerry Took, and Then One More. (or the States That Al Gore Took, and the Supreme Court.)
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