Has The Hillary Pushback Begun?
Folks, the Team Clinton effort to send Obama a message may have begun.
First, former Clinton beat writer Lois Romano writes a story in today’s Post about the risks that Obama faces due to his documented candor in admitting to his college drug use. Sure, it’s packaged in a way as to commend Obama for being open about it, but it serves to remind the media that the issue is out there for him.
Second, Clinton friend and Post editorial columnist Ruth Marcus writes an op-ed today that suggests Obama not run for president in 2008 because he is too green, and wait until 2012.
And now this, just posted to the Times website, a piece by Adam Nagourney, wherein he and Patrick Healy write about a series of recent dinners Clinton has had around the country sounding out people in preparation for a 2008 run. Note that the story's sources are discussions with dinner participants, and not campaign officials, so the leaked comments may not be what the Clinton camp wanted. Yet the story is revelatory because 1) people leaked the subject of these private Clinton dinners to the Times; and 2) it gives us insight into her assessment of her likely rivals.
This meeting was one of a series of nearly nonstop political consultations that Mrs. Clinton has engaged in — over dinner and drinks, at private offices and at her home in Washington — since Election Day, in what her advisers say are preparations for a probable announcement that she is taking the first steps into the presidential campaign.
Mrs. Clinton, the New York Democrat, was described by participants as leaving little doubt that she plans to run, without saying so directly. Depending on her audience, she appears to be either seeking information to use in campaign strategy, pressing potential supporters to hold tight and wait for her to announce, or gauging how certain issues — in particular, her initial vote for the war in Iraq — might play.
The sessions are the subject of much discussion in Democratic circles, and they seem designed in part to counter any impression that Mrs. Clinton is surrounded by an insular circle of longtime advisers and friends who are detached from many of the grassroots Democrats who have grown in influence since the last time a Clinton ran for president.
According to participants, Mrs. Clinton has pressed to find out everything from whether former Vice President Al Gore will run again (he is inclined not to, people tell her) to how much support remains for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the party’s 2004 candidate, among Democratic leaders (anemic, she has heard).
Mrs. Clinton told Democrats that she viewed her two strongest potential Democratic opponents as Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina. They said that she viewed Mr. Obama as her biggest obstacle to the nomination, but that she believed the threat of his candidacy will diminish as voters learn how inexperienced he is in government and foreign affairs.
Without mentioning Mr. Obama by name, Mrs. Clinton and her camp are already asserting that experience will be a key attribute for any successful candidate during difficult times — an argument that her team will no doubt make in a more aggressive way against Mr. Obama if they both jump into the race.
And if I am Obama and John Edwards, I start kneecapping Clinton now about her vote for the war resolution, her unwillingness to walk away from that vote like Edwards and Kerry have done, and why she seemingly supports the McCain Doctrine.