Hillary in 2008?

James A. Barnes and Peter Bell, reporters for National Journal, regularly poll more than a hundred political insiders—selected for their campaign experience, political knowledge, and ties to key voting blocs. Recently, for The Atlantic, they asked about the presidential prospects of Hillary Clinton. A list of poll participants can be found at the bottom of this article

Republican insiders who say it's her gender:

"Her gender: I know that's not 21st-century, but most of the country isn't there yet either."

"While it's difficult to pick just one, Hillary's gender will more than likely be the biggest obstacle to her becoming President. The bottom line—with such uncertainty in foreign and world affairs, the United States will not elect a woman to be the leader of the free world."

"Her gender. This country still has a large number of voters, men and women, who will find it hard to accept a woman in office of President. In any event, this 'obstacle' is the only one she has no control in altering.

"Her gender, and interestingly the obstacle of gender won't come from men, but from women."

Republican insiders who say it's her persona:

"Hillary's liberalism can be addressed and corrected—that's a work already in progress. But her brusque manner irritates millions; it's more difficult to hide personality in a long campaign."

"She's still too sanctimonious, particularly when someone gets under her skin. While her gender isn't a big liability, it gives her less room for error if she comes across as a bitch. She'll have moved to the middle enough to satisfy most swing voters, and she's sharpening her foreign policy credentials. But if one of the debates gets tough, she'll turn into Bob Dole in drag."

"Her persona—the very reasons that will make her the early front runner will be her ultimate undoing."

"Her persona will prevent her from becoming the next President. She is too strident and shrill and the great 'middle' that decides elections will not be comfortable with her."

"She, like her husband, is more Nixon than she is Reagan or Bush: Incredibly smart and disciplined, but paranoid and too devious for her own good."

"Her persona, which includes several of the attributes that you have listed, but also in part relates to her cold, distant, and aloof presence. However, having said that I would quickly interject that I am not saying that she cannot win, because given the right circumstances clearly she could. In fact, I believe that Republicans underestimate her at their own peril—just as they did her husband 13 years ago."

"The ticket is Clinton and either Warner or Bayh. There are too many rumors about Richardson's private life, and Clinton doesn't need to defend another man with rumored fidelity problems. And she can win."

"Hillary's persona is her baggage—not her husband, not her ideology. This is the intangible. For the same reason many people like her, others vehemently dislike her. She is polarizing. She doesn't even have to say anything and she polarizes people."

"Her persona. Hillary Clinton's persona encompasses all the other issues [listed in the poll]. I don't know how she can reinvent herself to be somebody different."

"If Hilary runs, she will win the Democratic nomination. Her biggest problem will be her persona, although I am not sure why."

"Her persona—the primary is one thing, and movement to the center another, but it will be a long [general election] campaign with a lot of close examination of her record, her votes, and her past.

Democrats who say Clinton fatigue:

"Clinton fatigue and 'Hillary the liberal' will be the two big negatives."

"As my white male independent husband says, 'Clinton fatigue.'"

"Only pick ONE??"

"Clinton fatigue, defined not as exhaustion with the Clintons per se, but the certainty that the right wing will continue its relentless effort to do everything and anything possible to take the Clintons down."

"Surprisingly, in 2004 activists in early states were pragmatic first and ideological second. That underlying pragmatism will be Senator Clinton's biggest challenge."

Democrats who say perceptions that she is too liberal:

"Biggest obstacle to winning in the fall: The Republicans will go to old playbook and try to portray her as a weak-kneed liberal. But Hillary is smarter that that. Look for some Sister Souljah moments. If she runs, Hillary Clinton will be the next President.

"Too liberal. Ultimately I think that the Right will want to use her as a liberal icon—a symbol of how Democrats are out of step with regular people. I don't think that task is as easy as it sounds. She isn't very liberal and she knows how to articulate her ideas and how they are grounded in her core values."

"Gender and Clinton fatigue are tied into the negative perceptions of liberals that the GOP has successfully made a negative in two thirds of the states."

"This hurts most Democrats, especially those from the Northeast, but she can win all the states Gore and Kerry carried, plus Florida."

"Perceptions that she is too liberal. Every Democrat will be painted by the opposition as too liberal and out of step with America. The challenge is to ensure that the campaign is waged on issues of importance to the voters and not the labels placed on the candidates. If nominee Hillary Clinton can accomplish that, she'll win the White House."

"In the general election, her perceived liberalness is her biggest liability. I don't believe she can beat any moderate Republican in a head-to-head battle. In fact, I would like to know what state Democrats lost in 2004 that Hillary will be able to win in 2008. Florida? Ohio? Arizona? Maine? Arkansas? I don't see it, unless the Republican nominee is very conservative (Santorum, maybe Frist). Compare this to other potential candidates. Warner wins Virginia. Bayh wins Indiana, and makes Ohio more interesting. Richardson puts the Southwest and Florida into play. But you can't win the general if you can't win the nomination ... and I don't believe anybody can beat Hillary for the nomination."

"Same argument that the Republicans use against every Democratic nominee."

"The ultra-liberal tag is just plain wrong but remains the biggest obstacle."

Presented by

James A. Barnes is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He is a former political correspondent for National Journal.

Peter Bell is the graphics editor for National Journal.

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