Column: President Clinton: The sequel?

By Eric Naing

I love Hillary Clinton. She is a brilliant, charming, and prolific person. I admire her as a great politician and a strong woman, and I know that she is destined for great things. But as much as it pains me to say so, she cannot become president in 2008.

Sen. Clinton appears to be taking all the right steps leading her toward a 2008 presidential run. Specifically, she has made a very effective effort to reposition herself as a moderate. In the Senate, she has forged surprising alliances with notable conservatives such as Rick Santorum and Bill Frist. She also has co-sponsored legislation such as the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act,” much to the chagrin of liberal women’s groups. Most famously, Sen. Clinton told a group of pro-choice activists that they need to tackle the issues of abortion differently and that it was a “sad, even tragic choice.”

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 53 percent of those polled were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to vote for Sen. Clinton should she run for president, and that 55 percent have a favorable view of her. These high poll numbers combined with her extremely high name recognition and prolific fundraising efforts all seem to point toward a successful bid for the White House.

Unfortunately, things get a bit dirtier upon closer inspection. While 53 percent would possibly vote for her, seven percent were “not very likely” and 39 percent were “not at all likely” to vote for her. Furthermore, 39 percent also held an unfavorable view of Sen. Clinton. All of this points to the ugly fact that a vast majority of Americans have already decided who they think Hillary Clinton is. The percentage of people who have not made up their minds about her is in the single digits-a very bad sign.

When conservatives successfully applied the “flip-flopper” tag to John Kerry, his presidential ambition was lost. Once an image has been tied to a candidate-no matter how true or untrue-it is almost impossible to live down. In this regard, if Sen. Clinton runs for the presidency, the central issue of the campaign will be her candidacy and not the actual issues-a certain recipe for failure.

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    Conservatives have had years of practice at taking pot shots at Sen. Clinton, and they certainly will not pass up the chance to do it again. Those opposing Sen. Clinton can play on existing fears, stereotypes and preconceived notions to paint Hillary in a negative light.

    Sen. Clinton is actually quite caring and down to earth, but she can easily be portrayed as a cold and overly ambitious woman. All of this will be made worse by the fact that Clinton’s image in a presidential campaign will be in the hands of a media that has proven to be extremely hostile to her in the past. Also, Clinton’s amazing fundraising abilities will be at least partially neutralized by the equally impressive fundraising efforts of the anti-Hillary crowd.

    And then there’s the issue of having a female president. According to a recent poll, 81 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for a woman for president. This means that if Hillary should run, she automatically loses 19 percent of the electorate. Granted she loses a massively ignorant part of the electorate, but they are potential voters nonetheless.

    Also, people usually respond to polls based on how they think things should be, as opposed to how they actually are. So the percentage of people who would not vote for a female president may actually be much larger. Frankly and unfortunately, America may not be ready for a female president. While this certainly is not Sen. Clinton’s fault, it obviously will not help her.

    Sen. Clinton is a great politician; there should be no doubt about that. Unfortunately, the stars just are not aligned in her favor. Hillary Clinton seems destined to join the ranks of Ted Kennedy and Al Gore as extremely worthy and talented politicians who will never become president for reasons beyond their control.

    Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. His column appears Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected].