With Friends Like These...

Amy Sullivan's article on why Hillary shouldn't be our nominee in 08 is, well, confusing. It's not just that she was compelled to write a "con" argument years before the primaries, but that the one she came up with is so conditional and, at times, self-contradictory. It's got four parts, and I want to quickly look at them in order:

No Such Thing as Undecided: This bit is Sullivan's read of the poll numbers, and it's the weakest of the article. First, she poo-poo's Hillary's early lead among the Democrats, noting that much of it is name recognition. Surely true. But John Kerry and John Edwards are something more than pings on a radar screen, even if they lack the stature of Mrs. Clinton. And while I remember Lieberman's stubborn lead in the polls till far into the primaries, the name recognition of a little-loved moderate in a field of unknowns means substantially less than the numbers of a much-loved party icon being chosen above a variety of other big names.

Sullivan also assails her favorables/unfavorables, noting that while her favorables are good, her unfavorables are bad, and both are locked in. The electorate, Sullivan says, had to form an impression of John Kerry. They've already got one of Hillary Clinton.

What's weird is that Amy then goes on to demolish this argument:

That's a disadvantage when you consider that one of the lessons of 2004 was that once voters develop a perception about a candidate, it's as immovable as superglue. No one who thought George W. Bush was a likable, friendly guy could be convinced that he was corrupt or misleading. And once John Kerry became identified in voters' minds as a “flip-flopper,” no amount of arguing could change that image. It's a problem for any candidate. For Sen. Clinton, it could be fatal. Americans know exactly what they think of her. And nearly 40 percent say they would never consider voting for her.

So 57% of Americans have an immovable, positive impression of Hillary Clinton? Great! Break out the party hats! Who cares that 40% don't like her? That 40% is the Republican base, the 40% who'll never turn on Bush, who'll never vote Democratic, and who should never concern us. It's well known that in each election 40% will vote Democratic, 40% Republican, and 20% can be won over (though they usually fall pretty equally as well). That Hillary's not winning over the folks who'll never vote for her doesn't particularly concern me.

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