September 02, 2003

Why Hillary Won't Run

Mark Steyn says she should*, Kathryn Jean Lopez is convinced she will, and John Derbyshire thinks she will even (especially?) when she says she won't. But Hillary Clinton is not running for president in 2004.

Steyn asserts that "the party's busting to hand [Hillary] the nomination, [and she] only get[s] one opportunity to refuse," but this presumed "busting" is based not on the feelings of Democratic activists (who are focused, some excitedly and some nervously, on Howard Dean), but on national polls of Democrats; with most voters not yet paying attention, of course the former First Lady wins what is for the most part a name-ID measure.

Steyn also writes:

The way to look at it is like this: What does she have to gain by waiting four years? If Bush wins a second term, the Clinton aura will be very faded by 2008. And, if by some weird chance Bush loses to a Howard Dean, she's going to have to hang around till 2012. Logic dictates that, if Hillary wants to be president, it's this year or none.

Well, no. In 2012 Hillary will be 65-- old, but not deathwatch territory. (George H.W. Bush was 64 when he took office; Ronald Reagan was nearly 70.) A lot can happen between now and then, or between now and 2008; only some of the possibilities have to do with fading aura. While it's true that Hillary takes a risk by sitting this one out, the risks are not as grave as some portray them-- particularly when weighed against the risks of running too soon.

If Hillary loses, her presidential hopes are probably over; re-nominating losing presidential candidacies is generally seen as out of style. Perhaps more crucially, running would mean breaking her promise to New Yorkers that she'd serve out her first term-- which could put her Senate seat in serious jeopardy if the New York GOP manages to field a strong candidate. A 2006 loss could easily mean a permanent end to her political life.

My bet: That's a risk she's not going to take.

*Actually, Steyn says that Hillary would be the ideal if you're a Democrat and "you seriously believe that Bush is defeatable"-- he mischievously declines to mention whether or not he shares that belief.

Posted by John Tabin at September 2, 2003 12:47 AM


I hope you are correct, but one of the reasons I tend to disagree is that Bush is very vulnerable because of the aftermath of the war and the economy and mostly the media. From where I sit she is EASILY the strongest candidate, but your judgment is better than mine in this case and I take some comfort in your conclusion.

Posted by: lee at September 3, 2003 04:13 PM