COULD IT BE that Bill Clinton is going to add a new twist to Harry Truman's 1948 campaign?
Harry ran against the Republican-controlled "Do-Nothing 80th Congress." That became his theme. Bill's theme apparently is going to be "We Get Along." I mean that in the sense that he will say the country needs a moderate Democrat like him in the White House who can work with the conservative Republican leadership on the Hill.
Here's how former Clinton aide David Gergen put it on Tim Russert's CNBC show Tuesday night:
"Bill Clinton will run on the formula that he's the man who can get things done. He can work with the Republicans on mainstream proposals, but he'll stand there at the bridge and cut them off on the extremist proposals. He wants to seek accommodation with the economic conservatives in the Republican Party and go to war against the social conservatives. That's a strategy that has got some promise electorally for Bill Clinton. Where it leaves his party is another question."
This led Russert to ask, "But he's making the assumption that there will be a Republican Congress?"
Gergen: "That is the implicit assumption. If you're a Democratic zTC congressman, that's not exactly good news."
It sure isn't, which is why there is again some rumbling about a challenge to his renomination -- or a liberal third party. Those fears may or may not be realistic. The president is taking no chances. Last week he made his first official campaign trip -- official in the sense that his campaign -- Clinton-Gore '96 paid for it, not the taxpayers. This week he began broadcasting campaign-paid spots on television -- the earliest ever a sitting president (or maybe any presidential candidate) started that.
Could there really be a Democratic split leading to a third party? Jesse Jackson has an interesting take on that. He says there already has been. Clinton will in effect be the third party candidate in 1996. He has left the true Democrats. That sure sounds to me as if Jackson or someone with similar views might challenge President Clinton -- if not in the primaries then as a third party leader.
According to Newsweek, "Some angry Dems look favorably on a third party run by Jesse Jackson. Though it could cost Clinton's re-election, a Jackson candidacy would increase turnout among groups likely to vote for other Democrats." Third party coat-tails? That's new.
The most interesting speculation about presidential politics to me has to do with Colin Powell. No, not that he might run as an independent. No, not that he might run as a Republican. But that he might run as a Democrat! Newsweek again:
"Hill sources say a group of House Democrats, dissatisfied with Bill Clinton, have tried to convince Powell he's the man to 'save' their party. Powell offered them no encouragement, the sources say." Didn't say if he offered them discouragement.