Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 4, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HILLARY'S COATTAILS....In the New York Times today, Carl Hulse writes about the possibility that Hillary Clinton's nomination might have a negative effect on House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts:

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Nancy Boyda, a Democrat who ran for Congress in this district last year, owed her upset victory partly to the popularity of the Democratic woman at the top of the ticket: Kathleen Sebelius, who won the governor's seat. Now, with a tough re-election race at hand in 2008, Ms. Boyda faces the prospect that her electoral fate could be tied to another woman: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton is a long way from winning the Democratic presidential nomination, and over the last few weeks has struggled to hang on to the air of inevitability that she has been cultivating all year. But the possibility that she will be the nominee is already generating concern among some Democrats in Republican-leaning states and Congressional districts, who fear that sharing the ticket with her could subject them to attack as too liberal and out of step with the values of their constituents.

Interesting. So Boyda is nervous about sharing the ticket with Hillary?

Of the presidential race, she said: "It is something I have no control over, quite honestly. They will demonize any Democrat who becomes the nominee. I just put my head down and work."

They will demonize any Democrat who becomes the nominee. Smart woman. So who is worried about Hillary's anti-coattails? Answer: Kansas Republicans, who claim that a Clinton nomination will help them out. An entirely impartial assessment, I'm sure. Who else? "House Democrats" who are "privately nervous" about Hillary's reverse coattails. No names, of course. What else? Well, there's this:

Democrats say they have not polled on the issue, though a private survey that surfaced this year found that the nomination of either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama could cut into support for House Democrats in tough districts.

I'm actually open to the idea that Hillary Clinton might not have downticket coattails that are as strong as Barack Obama's. But if you want to convince me of this, you really need more than a few Kansas Republicans shedding crocodile tears, some allegedly "privately nervous" House Dems, and a survey — the only piece of actual evidence in the entire article — that concludes just the opposite. Just sayin'.

For the other side of the story, check out Tom Schaller here. He doesn't know the answer for sure either, but at least he presents a bit of evidence to help make his case.

Kevin Drum 1:44 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Rove still gets to frame all discussions, even from the grave.

Posted by: Kenji on December 4, 2007 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

Answer: Kansas Republicans, who claim that a Clinton nomination will help them out.

The Kansas GOP is on it's way to the trashheap - they have gone so far round the 'bend that a sane Republican can't get past the primary. Moderate republicans are becoming Democrats, and the head of the state party, Kris Kobach, is demanding signed loyalty oaths of Repubs.

They ain't dead yet, but they are at least paralyzed and on a respirator, and aren't getting up to fight any time soon! (If Slattery would just get his ass home, he could unseat Robert, who has problems hanging over his head stemming from is use of his position as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee to further the agenda of the Bushies.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 4, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

G'night - I make that many typos in a post that short, I need to call it a night. Sweet dreams, political animals.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 4, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

One last thing...The KS 02 is home to both Ft. Riley and Ft. Leavenworth - and the bases delivered the district to Boyda in 2006. (Soldiers with families have kids in schools and vote locally rather than absentee. And after the caging scheme of the Bushies, look for even those not invested in the local area to do so.)

The military vote is not likely to go to the GOP in such disproportionate numbers as it has in the past for quite a long while, if ever.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 4, 2007 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, when you do coverage of the primary, why don't you ever mention that your publisher, the person who pays you, is a vocal supporter of Senator Clinton and massive fundraiser for her?

I'm sure it could just be a coincidence that your coverage of the primaries tends to consistently slant in the same direction, but isn't disclosure the best way to handle your compromised situation?

Posted by: Petey on December 4, 2007 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

I think people increasingly like divided government, as both parties become more dominated by their extreme wings. In this kind of environment, coattails may be too much to ask of any candidate of any party.

Posted by: Kevin on December 4, 2007 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

Tell you what. When the Republicans have no majority representation outside of the Mason-Dixon, those bigots can try to reinstitute slavery for all they want. And we can burn down Atlanta again, just because it was so fun the first time.

100 miles wide, all the way to the sea.

Posted by: anonymous on December 4, 2007 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

i'm an edwards supporter, but i don't really buy the "hillary kills election chances for house democrats" line because people forget that if senator clinton is running in the general election, her wildly popular husband, everyone's favorite former president, will also be out in the field stumping for candidates. what little negative effect she might have on downticket races is totally outweighed by this advantage.

people underestimate the clintons at their peril.

Posted by: josh on December 4, 2007 at 4:27 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "I'm actually open to the idea that Hillary Clinton might not have downticket coattails that are as strong as Barack Obama's."

Barack Obama? Coattails? Here are ten words that should dissuade you of that rather far-fetched notion:

"I met Harold at the Playboy party!" Senator Bob Corker.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, & currently in Chicago on December 4, 2007 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

Wrote about this last week when Ed Kilgore discussed down-ballot races and whether Hillary would impact them positively or negatively. Folks said Al Gore was polarizing when he ran for prez and now they're saying it about Hillary.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on December 4, 2007 at 5:07 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton is "too liberal" is smoking something. She is one of the most moderate Democrats running. Virtually nothing from the Bush Administration will change if she wins the election - mark my words.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 4, 2007 at 5:51 AM | PERMALINK

I don't generally agree with Hillary on much. Although I will work for her, or whoever the nominee is. But I did agree 100% with her when she noted that, paraphrasing her, 'if you don't think the Dem. ANY Dem, nominee will not have strong negatives by Nov of 08, when the MSM gets done with them, you have not been watching how the game has been played since 1988, and the Willie Horton ad'. Sure....Hillary has the most baggage. But Obama has not run the gauntlet yet. Although we have gotten hints how they will come at him. Plus, if you think Hillary's background checkers are 'through and ruthless', wait till the GOP gets done with Obama. With Hillary there is nothing new...anyway. I repeat, I like Obama...will work hard for him too. But he will survive, if he does survive, bruised and bloody, and it will undoubtedly lessen the coattail effect. The MSM will just see to it.

Posted by: jonst on December 4, 2007 at 6:51 AM | PERMALINK

But if you want to convince me of this, you really need more than a few Kansas Republicans shedding crocodile tears, some allegedly "privately nervous" House Dems, and a survey — the only piece of actual evidence in the entire article — that concludes just the opposite. Just sayin'

What exactly do you want Kevin? Evidence? You know the Times doesn't have the budget for that.

Posted by: Lab Partner on December 4, 2007 at 7:08 AM | PERMALINK

Commenting on more MSM grist. Who(what rich conservative) owns the NyTimes anyway. And nice photo they picked for poor Nancy Boyda, looks even worse then my wife's Drivers License photo. I love how this article talks about the silver cloud for republicans and attempts to get Dems to bite each other in the ass. What the hell is Nancy supposed to do, Send a letter to hillary asking her not to run?

Why do we validate stuff like this? This isn't even a pitch in the dirt, it's merely more propoganda by corporate owned MSM. Step behind the curtain Kevin, stop commenting on it's colors.

Posted by: Aaron on December 4, 2007 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I've personally talked with local Democratic officials who are worried about a Hillary Clinton nomination, because they just know that Republicans will come out of the woodwork in their own districts to vote against her. And there are plenty of rural Dems who will say so publicly, like Wes Shoemyer, a state senator in northeast Missouri.

Posted by: Clark on December 4, 2007 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

[OT]: Somewhere in an upper room of the White House, Dubya conceals a portrait of himself in which (among other macabre mutations) his radically elongated nose has long ago burst completely through the frame:

Somebody Is Lying About FISA
By Melanie Scarborough [San Francisco Examiner]

As a technician for AT&T, Mark Klein says he helped connect a device three years ago that copied onto a government supercomputer every phone call, e-mail and Internet search made through the company's network.

"AT&T provided the National Security Agency with everything that ordinary Americans communicated over the Internet," Klein said recently on Capitol Hill. "This program included not only AT&T customers, but everyone who used the Internet because AT&T carries messages for other carriers also."

President Bush denies that. "We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans," he said. "Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates. The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities."

Only one of those men can be telling the truth. That the White House is frantically lobbying weak links in the Senate to pass a revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) granting immunity for AT&T and other telecom companies suggests who fears exposure. ...
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 4, 2007 at 7:44 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats should nominate an African American because it will help Dems in Kansas? That doesn't pass the smell test or the laugh test.

However, the bigger question is: What will happen when the Republicans nominate another buffoon for President? The number of offices they hold has been going down due to the current idiot, and the future doesn't look bright for them if it includes the name Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Thompson, or McCain.

Posted by: reino on December 4, 2007 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

When you are looking at downticket effects you have to examine the candidates' "very unfavorables". Rasmussen shows that both Hillary and Obama have extraordinarily high very unfavorables, with Obama surpassing even Clinton in the number of people who view him very unfavorably (surprising given the media narrative). Also, neither of these candidates even beat Giuliani in a swing state like Ohio. Edwards does. (Quinnipiac). It is stupid to keep concentrating on cadndiates like Obama and Clinton who will have a disastrous effect on other races.

Posted by: Chrissy on December 4, 2007 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

As regards to Schaller and his theories, having known a few political scientists and social scientists/statisticians, the good ones know people and the people behind the polls. If you don't your theories are just that - theories.

Posted by: Chrissy on December 4, 2007 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

"But if you want to convince me of this, you really need more than a few Kansas Republicans shedding crocodile tears, some allegedly "privately nervous" House Dems, and a survey — the only piece of actual evidence in the entire article — that concludes just the opposite. Just sayin'"

Well, but any politician who would publically come out at this time and say outright that he/she was afraid of any of the top contenders being president probably doesn't have very good political interests. Not sure that's the person I would want....

Please let me assure you that in states like VA and WV and NC, Dems are genuinely nervous about Hillary. We talk about it quite a bit. Our nominees (who, we hope, will eventually have to work with the next Dem President) and state political officials are not the ones who should be saying this right now.

Posted by: geml on December 4, 2007 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Don't we want Democrats who are sure of and proud of what they stand for and who will go the extra mile to try to convince voters Democrat policies will be better for them and the country?

Posted by: polo on December 4, 2007 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

The representatives who are concerned about the downticket effect of Hillary and Obama should not be dismissed. They know their constituents. It seems rather arrogant to just dismiss their concerns. A bit like standing on the deck of the Titanic and declaring a little ice never hurt anyone.

Posted by: Chrissy on December 4, 2007 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

This stuff exists solely to produce The Conventional Wisdom. It is a genre of political conjecture predicated on rumors. These rumors inevitably advocate for conservative causes and the election of conservatives. The masters of this factless sermonizing are not the Republicans, but their “liberal” partners in the conservative movement, folks like the disgraced Joe Klein. Has it escaped anyone’s attention that the Republicans have been spreading Hillary fear for well over a decade now? In her case it is not that she is too liberal, even Gingrich acknowledges her conservative credentials, it is because she may be powerful.

The engineered Conventional Wisdom is why we rarely read sentences like: “In the New York Times today, Carl Hulse writes about the possibility that George Bush's nomination might have a negative effect on House Republicans running for reelection in liberal districts."

Posted by: bellumregio on December 4, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

bellumregio: you are confusing conventional wisdom with just plain smarts.

Posted by: Chrissy on December 4, 2007 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK
I'm actually open to the idea that Hillary Clinton might not have downticket coattails that are as strong as Barack Obama's. But if you want to convince me of this, you really need more than a few Kansas Republicans shedding crocodile tears, some allegedly "privately nervous" House Dems, and a survey — the only piece of actual evidence in the entire article — that concludes just the opposite.

The article never says anything (except the one paraphrase of the KS Republicans) that mentions Obama in anything like the context you suggest, and even they don't make a straight Clinton v. Obama claim, but essentially a Clinton v. Generic Democratic Alternative claim . And the poll cited does not conclude "just the opposite" of what you misrepresent as the thesis of the article, at least not from the information we have: the opposite would be if the poll showed that Clinton was better for Democrats down-ticket than Obama; a poll showing that both Clinton and Obama are bad for downticket races, but the reporting of which does not quantify how bad each is, says nothing one way or the other about Clinton v. Obama (though it does suggest, presuming that the "hurt" it finds is compared to some other candidate(s), that both are worse than some other choice(s)), rather than contradicting the claim you seem to want to argue about that the article itself does not advance.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 4, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Chrissy,
I don't have a horse in this race, but don't misrepresent things by only listing Ohio. In Missouri, Clinton outperforms Edwards. I believe Ohio was the only state that Edwards came out ahead.

Let's focus on who best represents our views, not who the Republicans hate the least.

Posted by: DR on December 4, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

DR, cite you stuff. At any rate, Ohio (and not Missouri) is important for the following reason: 2004!

Posted by: Chrissy on December 4, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Need to preview. Meant "your stuff".

Posted by: Chrissy on December 4, 2007 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

You are seriously deluding yourself if you don't think Clinton will be a serious drag on downticket races. She is the GOP's last hope in 2008. Wake up Democrats!

Posted by: waka waka on December 4, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

How do you spell longer coattails in a broad-based national campaign? E-D-W-A-R-D-S

Posted by: tailcoat on December 4, 2007 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary Clinton is not the one who will lead the Democrats out of the wilderness. She is an extremely polarizing, flip-flopper who will embarass the Dems and allow another GOP sphincter to sashay into the White House in 2012. That is, if there even is an America left by then. We could all be selling apples on the street corner (and I don't mean Apple computers),

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 4, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

>"What will happen when the Republicans nominate another buffoon for President?"

They will probably be elected. Never underestimate the ignorance of the american voter. They voted for Nixon, Reagan, and Bush II.

>"She [Hillary] is the GOP's last hope in 2008"

True enough. I haven't spoken to a progressive or democrat who wants to vote for her. Good example of party machinery (big $$$) being out of alignment with the population.

If she's on the ballot many people I know are talking about writing in Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinch... they seem to be the only candidates out there who actually say what they believe and believe what they say.

Unfortunately, most voters aren't really interested in hearing the truth (etc.) Bummer, that.

Posted by: Buford on December 4, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I just wish Dems were as good at this candidate manipulation stuff as Repugs. HRC is who they're a-feared of.

Ron Paul!

Posted by: Horatio Parker on December 4, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I think people increasingly like divided government, as both parties become more dominated by their extreme wings. Posted by: Kevin

Oh if this were only true for the Dems. But the fact of the matter is that the Democratic party has never been as liberal as various members, particularly in the last ten-fifteen years.

Posted by: JeffII on December 4, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

It's a phenomenon that is partially helped by our habit of falling into the traps they set for us. In other words, if they tell us that we should be worried about running with Clinton, we act like it, and people think something is wrong. If we act the opposite way, it's very possible nothing bad will happen.

Posted by: Brian on December 4, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

This article is another example of RNC slanted malpractice by our "liberal media." If Bacon's recent WaPo outrage deserved a 10 in this category, this story is a solid 8. The headline (which may not be Hulse's work, but acurately connotes his intention) states "Vulnerable Democrats See Fates Tied to Clinton." The story then proceeds to quote NOT ONE SINGLE DEMOCRAT in support of that statement, though it quotes a long line of Republicans to that effect. The closest it comes is one unsupported by evidence statement (not even a background quote) that "House Democrats" are nervous about Clinton's effect in tough districts. At least the WaPo allows online comments so we can push back at this crap.

Posted by: Marlowe on December 4, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Obama-Sebelius '08?

Exorcize the Clinton ghost from the Democratic party once and for all, while advancing the feminist hopes of would-be Hillary voters.

Posted by: Peter Bautista on December 4, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for pointing this out, Kevin. I read the article late last night and had the exact same reaction. It's really embarrassing for the Times. (And I'm not particularly pro-Hillary, either.)

Posted by: M on December 4, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Repubs have been preparing the emotional landscape of likely voters for years. We all (myself) included have some anti-Hillary emotional baggage. If nothing else, years of haranging has got our brains to associate Hillaries name with the probablity that we will immediately hear unpleasant rightwing whining. I.E. our brains know there is a correllation between hearing the name Hillary and unpleasant rants to follow. Just as 65% of Americans were trained to correllate Saddam with mushroom clouds and terrorists in 2002, our brains emotional centers have been trained to hate Hillary. For voters who don't examine the origin of their feelings (most of them), this automatically gives Hillary one strike against her before she has even entered the batters box.

They have been preparing the hate-Hilary emotional landscape for fifteen years. Obama hasn't been an obvious target for nearly as long. If we surprised them with an unexpected nominee, they would have even less time to prepare.

Posted by: bigTom on December 4, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

But if you want to convince me of this, you really need more than a few Kansas Republicans shedding crocodile tears, some allegedly "privately nervous" House Dems, and a survey — the only piece of actual evidence in the entire article — that concludes just the opposite. Just sayin'.

Right on. I'm very skeptical of all the recent reportage supposedly telling us who the GOP would prefer to run against. Gee, how nice of them Republicans to telegraph their preferences to us.

That's not saying I'm not open as Kevin is to the possibility that Senator Obama has longer coattails. It's just that I'm not convinced. I think there's a very real possibility that GOP high and mighties like their chances against Obama better than Clinton. If that were the case, you think they'd tell us?

Now Edwards on the other hand, there's a guy I feel strongly would have some long coattails. What will it take to salvage his campaign? He doesn't have much time left.

Posted by: Jasper on December 4, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's the elephant in the room, people: Hillary's irrevocable negative ratings. For the longest time it was presumed by many that, indeed, it was that "right wing conspiracy" causing all the ruckus. It wasn't. But, in the spirit of great branding, Hillary lasted a long time on such a delusion. Now with the latest Zogby poll (http://zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1393) the cat's out of the bag. And there's no putting it back.

Oh, you don't believe in polls? I don't blame you. But so far, until the debate meltdown over illegal immigrant DLs, Hillary's been sailing on nothing but poll power. Indeed, in the debate she claimed that the other candidates were "piling on" because she was "winning." Not leading. Winning.

Memo to Hillary - You can't win via polls, you can only lead, and that advantage has rapidly evaporated. Why? Could it be the fact that her so-called Presidential demeanor in the debates was based almost exclusively on appearance rather than substance? Could it be her evasive nature to not go on the record and perhaps demonstrate she is a leader? Robert Reich who recently criticized her for relying so heavily on Focus-Group politics thinks so. Joe Klein thinks so. Zbignew Brzezinski thinks so. George Soros thinks so. The people in Iowa and New Hampshire think so. Hell, even Ms. Winfrey thinks so. Could they all be wrong?

Arguably, there has never been any major candidate, certainly in recent history, who has inflated their record, dodged true inquiry, retained Republican sentiments and allegiances while cloaking them in a left wing patina, all the while insisting to not answer "hypotheticals" as much as Hillary Clinton. If so, who?

Finally, either the pollsters started tapping into truly representative Americans instead of the Martians they had previously been calling or the American public en masse woke up to the snake oil. But at this point none of the king's men are going to be able to mend Hillary's inevtiable downward spiral.

Odd, there's an argument that Ron Paul's remarkable ascent - none of which is based on attacking Hillary, contrary to Rudy and others - is one of the leading causes the public is, seemingly, sick - NO, make that excedingly sick - of politics as usual. This nascent rebellion is fueling mass discontent, which is likely translating into progressive negative numbers for every candidate associated with the same old same old. And, arguably, no one candidate represents politics as usual as much as Hillary does.

All this is happening, unfortunately for Hillary, at a time when the subprime markets are reeling, trade pacts such as NAFTA resoundingly are commonly perceived as being negative, and Bill's once shining star is increasingly becoming tarnished. For instance, Newt Gingrich recently pointed out on C-SPAN that Bill originally insisted that the federal budget couldn't be balanced. The House, assured that it could be, led the charge and Bill happily followed along. Look closely at Bill's record and you're going to see a plethora of such examples, in addition to the miserable initiatives such as NAFTA. It wasn't ironic that Greenspan called Bill a good Republican President.

Bill's recent flipflop on whether or not he supported the Iraqi war is merely another nail in the coffin. Oh I know, you linguistically endowed Kool Aid drinkers, it all depends on what the meaning of the word war is, is. That sort of evasion of responsibility has run its course.

W and the Neocons have taken us very close to WWIII. Do you want a candidate who relies on Focus-Group politics and consistent deception to be running the show? If so, you've got a lot of explaining to do and not much time left to do it before your candidate gets buried in Iowa. Good luck; you'll need it.

Posted by: arty kraft on December 4, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK
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