CATASTROPHE KEEPS US FROM THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION. As someone who has long been a proponent of "Hillary Myth #2," I was very interested in the data adduced by Garance. I do think that Matt Yglesias gets at a couple of possible limitations. First, I definitely agree that Clinton won't be perceived by Democratic primary voters as substantially more liberal than her reputation, but whether this will be true of the general electorate remains open. And second, I also agree that Clinton probably won't be seen as more liberal than an African-American Senator from Illinois, but it does seem to me that there would be a major gap in perceived versus actual progressivism when comparing Clinton to, say, John Edwards.
Still, given the likely dynamics of the 2008 election, I concede that Clinton being perceived as an arch-liberal may well not be a significant problem. This theory, however, comes with a very large downside. Given that the Iraq war will still be raging and almost certainly still an abject disaster, foreign policy will again be central to the 2008 election. In this context, Clinton's purported liberalism may be largely negated by her Iraq hawkishness. This is a serious problem, however, because running an Iraq war hawk as the Democratic candidate is a terrible idea. I think it's a major liability for Edwards, who at least turned against the war relatively early and unequivocally. With Clinton, it's even worse -- not only because her position has been catastrophic on the merits, but because she would be essentially unable to exploit what should be the biggest albatross for the GOP in '08. Having an election discourse that consists primarily of variations of the incompetence dodge would probably be bad for the Democrats, and certainly bad for the country.
Fortunately (from my perspective), I also think that this factor makes Clinton's primary chances all but DOA. As the disastrous toll of the war becomes more and more indelible, being the biggest Iraq hawk among the major candidates just isn't going to be a viable position from which to take the Dem nomination.
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