Pete Du Pont has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal about the prospects for Hillary Clinton's bid to be the Democrat Presidential candidate in 2012.
Du Pont notes that Obama is fast becoming a liability for the Democrat Party, with a growing perception that he is a socialist (55% of likely voters describe him as one.) No longer an opinion of "extreme" conservatives and tea-partiers, this has quickly become a mainstream opinion in America. Wisely, Americans don't really go for socialism, and this could spell disaster for the Democrats - both for this November, and in 2012.
Yet, despite Obama's raging unpopularity, the Republican's haven't really caught up as much as they'd have liked. While there is definitely an anti-Democrat and anti-Obama sentiment in the States, that
movement has not yet translated into a pro-Republican movement. This would open up the possibility whereby if the Dem's could dump the unpopular policies on Obama, and then throw him under the metaphorical bus, 2012 could still be a winner for the Democrats. All they need is a centrist leader to show how far they have moved away from the extremist policies of Obama.
Enter Mrs Clinton.
It is widely known that the Clinton's and Obama do not get along, with the sour battles of 2008 still very much in the mind of many voters. Although they have kissed and made up, no-one really believes them! Many commentators have noted that both Hillary and Bill have been noticeable by their absence. The media savvy couple have chosen not to spend too much time cosying up to the radical new President, despite Hillary being Secretary of State. One could easily speculate that this is because a Presidential campaign that distances her from Obama might be in the making.
A campaign from Hillary would essentially be a drive to the centre, attempting to snatch the vote of those who are both disillusioned with the leftist Obama policies but who are not enthralled with voting Republican again so quickly after the Bush years. With the Republican candidate likely to be a lot more conservative than John McCain, Clinton could be expected to dive right into the centre, attempting to catch the moderate vote - consisting of the Blue Dog Democrats, the centrist independents and some of the RINO (Republican in Name Only) voters who may be disillusioned with the party's lurch to the right. Du Pont argues that Mrs Clinton could be expected to run on a low tax ticket that also plans to deal with the deficit while aiding job creation. This seems reasonable, and in Du Pont's words it would create "a broad voter coalition."
I fully agree with the Du Pont article. From a conservative perspective, the best hope at the moment is that Obama remains in power. I think he is incapable of "doing a Bill" and dragging himself to the centre after defeat in the upcoming elections, and I believe he will stay hard left. If this continues, and the Republicans play their cards right, pick the right candidate, and fight on a "low tax, small state versus large tax, large state" ticket, 2012 should be relatively straightforward. Obama fits into the socialist stereotype, and it is one that the Republicans can exploit to their advantage.
Obama can no longer play the "moderate centrist" card that won him the 2008 election. "Hope" and "Change" have been shown to be "Tax" and "Spend." Clinton is not cursed with this, and can pick up on that challenge of being the moderate. She can paint Obama as the radical leftist, and whoever the Republicans pick as the radical right, with Hillary dropping in as the "reasonable" vote in the middle.
2012 is still a fair distance away, but it is important for conservatives to make it clear that what the administration is doing at the moment is not just Obama taking the Democrats for a ride, but that this is a Democrat administration as well as just an Obama administration. It is an administration that Hillary is part of, and it is enacting many of the policies she has argued for. As a result, to place all its failures on Obama's back and then to throw him under the bus would be grossly dishonest - but that is not to say that it will not happen.
Obama could be a real burden for the Democrats by 2012 - he is becoming one already. If Obama and the Democrats are shown to be part of the hard left, then 2012 is the Republican's election on a plate. However, if Clinton can distance herself from it all, and show herself to be the "moderate" as opposed to extreme Obama, then as Du Pont says, "that could turn out to be a slam dunk for her and the disgruntled Democrat Party."
Such a situation would be extremely treacherous for the Republicans, and it is important that it is avoided.