Hillary all over again

With the exception of President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is the most recognized American politician of this era. Today, she is far and away the Democratic front runner for president. Many believe she is the odds on favorite to win it all — a view supported by a variety of public opinion polls taken in the lead-up to the 2014 mid-terms.

A supportive press has been in place for years. Indeed, sympathetic coverage has been a long running storyline — only interrupted by the monumental media crush developed around Barack Obama in 2008.


Still, Ms. Clinton remains a polarizing figure, dating back to her highly publicized failure to secure "Hillary [health] Care" during her husband's first term. The high profile failure was a major factor in delivering yours truly and 72 other freshman Republicans as "majority makers" in 1994 — the first Republican House majority in 40 years.

Other near (political) death experiences come to mind. Recall the White House Travel Office scandal, the Whitewater scandal, the Vince Foster scandal and the too numerous to recite "bimbo eruptions" so well chronicled by Clinton era biographers. (Of the lot, Kathleen Wiley's allegations being the most indefensible.) More recently, it was a clearly frustrated former secretary of state who blurted out an irreverent "At this point, what does it matter?" during tense Benghazi scandal related testimony before the U.S. Senate.

A resilient Hillary survived them all. Indeed, "thrived" is a more appropriate term as the oft-criticized former First Lady won a Senate seat from New York and served her former nemesis Mr. Obama as secretary of state. Even her many detractors will have a difficult time indicting Ms. Clinton's resume — and resolve.

On policy, Hillary has proven as flexible as her perpetually triangulating husband (recall her support for New York drivers' licenses for illegal aliens before performing a very public 180 degree turn in the face of intense criticism). The early (quite liberal) First Lady of Arkansas is now viewed as a member of her party's moderate wing. Such may say more about the state of her party than Ms. Clinton's maneuverability, but the image was carefully calibrated during her reign at state until, well, quite recently.

It was only a few weeks ago that the Arkansas Hillary showed up — and not in a helpful way. It was during a rally for Martha Coakley, the (losing) Democratic nominee for governor of Massachusetts, that she remarked, "Don't let anybody tell you that it's corporations and businesses that create jobs." Yes, you read it right. Hillary channeled Elizabeth Warren (and, the "you didn't build that" Barack Obama) right before our eyes. It was only in the light of negative reviews that the usually media savvy Ms. Clinton attempted to walk back a comment that will assuredly be included in endless GOP attack ads. One would suspect her senior staff will advise that such attempts to get to the left of Senator Warren are misplaced. You see, there is no room to the left of Ms. Warren.

Another familiar but nevertheless real problem concerns Ms. Clinton's career as a crisis communications manager. I refer to the periodic episodes wherein she has played the part of the distressed wife while executing plans to degrade and/or trivialize her husband's paramours. Over the years, more than a few pundits (not all conservatives, either) have questioned how this behavior fits the image of a glass ceiling breaking feminist role model. Such is an interesting issue even for those who insist Bill's serial dalliances are of no relevance in the forthcoming campaign.

One other potential obstacle concerns the nagging question of how such an established front runner could have stumbled against a rookie senator who came from far behind to win the nomination in 2008. In other words, does she possess the requisite staying power, or will Clinton fatigue again rear its ugly head?

These obstacles pale in comparison to the considerable accouterments a Clinton brings to a presidential campaign. In no particular order: a national money machine guaranteed to produce prodigious amounts of funds, organizational prowess provided by public and private sector union friends, a first rate Democratic National Committee GOTV ("Get Out the Vote") operation and, of course, the sustained popularity of husband Bill — especially among women, go figure.


It's a formidable arsenal primed to "make history." Come to think of it, it's remarkably similar to the assets Hillary brought to her last presidential campaign. All of which should give Democrats pause before they go "all in" on Hillary again.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.